10 reasons why Brand Managers get fired

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

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

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

Top 10 reasons why Brand Managers get fired:  

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

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

The big question is what do you do about it.

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

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

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

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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

Positioning 2016.112

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

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

 

Clients get the advertising they deserve.

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

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

Theory #1: you blame yourself

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

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

Theory #2: You Blame your Agency

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

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

Theory #3: You Blame your Brand

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

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

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

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

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

 

Slide1

 

Be better at every stage 

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

Be a better client and get the advertising you deserve

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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

 

Positioning 2016.112

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

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

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

China is in a state of dramatic change

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

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

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

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

Global Pricing Management Systems

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

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

Pricing Waterfall

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

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

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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

Positioning 2016.112

How to write a Brand Concept that will help you win

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

It starts with doing the Brand Positioning homework

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

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

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Who is your target?

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

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

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What’s the Benefit?

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

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

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

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

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Emotional Benefits

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

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

Reasons to Believe (RTB’s)

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

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

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

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

Process

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

Product

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

Third person

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

Behavioral

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

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

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

 

Turning the work into a Brand Concept

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

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

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

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

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

For a presentation on how to write a Positioning Statement, follow:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

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The best media decisions should focus on where your consumer is, not where the media is

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

At Beloved Brands, we believe that Marketers must think of Media as an investment that connects with consumers at the point they are most willing to engage in your brand story, getting them to think, feel or act differently enough to generate higher sales, share and profits beyond the media investment. There is no free media in this world, you are either investing with dollars or investing with effort. Both cost money. With all the changes to media in the last 10-15 years, we must challenge ourselves to think differently.

I went to a big huge “Digital Media Conference” in Chicago last year, hoping to challenge myself. And by the 15th presentation, there was this odd feeling I couldn’t figure it out. And then it hit me. I had not once heard the word “consumer” in any of the presentations. Everything was about MEDIA. It was gadget after gadget. How to move up with key words, the 9 types of digital display shaped ads and cool little videos that went viral. Over and over again.

The best media decisions should focus on where your consumer is, not where the media is.

Everything in Marketing has to start and end with the consumer in mind. You have to be more consumer obsessed than you are media obsessed. Yes, media is fun, with cool new stuff happening everyday. But if you are running a brand, consumers are your only source of revenue that you will ever have. Lead with the consumer and you will make better media choices. I one saw a gravel pit on a country road with a sign out front that said “Like us on Facebook”. That’s crazy. I heard about the President of chemical companies that told their brand team to get on Instagram, because their daughter was on it. That’s crazy too. And I know an industrial company who put “Facebook Likes” as one of the major goals for each brand. More craziness. These are media led decision, nowhere near consumer led decisions. As the media world has changed, brand marketers are really struggling with how to approach media decisions. Always keep in mind that the only reason you should ever choose a certain media is if you believe that it matches to where your consumer will be receptive to your brand message, and influence them to change their behavior in a way that favors your brand.

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We will show you three different models to challenge your brain to think about your media with a consumer first mentality. We start with how consumers use media, then show how the degree of consumer connectivity with your brand  impacts your media strategy and then finally, we look at fitting your brand message into the part of the life of your consumer where they will be most receptive to your message.

1. The 8 ways consumers use Media

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Taking a step into the shoes of consumers, we have mapped out 8 ways that consumer engage with media.

  • When consumers want to be smarter, the obvious option is Google for searching whatever comes to your mind. But consumers can also reach for Wikipedia for basic information on complex subjects. Blogs are also an amazing tool for getting smarter (hopefully why you are reading here). In terms of traditional media, consumers still use subject-matter expert type magazines, informative TV stations (Home and Garden) or news/documentary programming.
  • Consumers use media to stay aware of what’s going on. Consumers might look to TV or Newspapers for news, sports or entertainment networks. A lot of on-line news sites (Huffington Post or Forbes.com) are providing regular interval stories that get delivered through social media feeds. For business, LinkedIn is becoming the best site to stay aware of though leadership in your industry, new job openings or what is happening job-wise to your peers/friends.
  • For decades consumers have used media to escape from reality, turning on the TV after a hard day at work. The best dramas in the modern world are by non-traditional stations such as AMC, TNT or most recently Netflix. The network TV is becoming like “fast food” entertainment. Many younger consumers are using YouTube for shorter term videos. And magazines continue to provide a nice escape for consumers.
  • The social media options over the last 5-10 years have provided a real chance for us to express ourselves.  We have become obsessed with telling the world what is on our minds through Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. Selfies and kid pics. Political opinions. Sports commentary. Facebook has begun to serve this purpose shifting from what are we doing to what are we thinking.
  • Social media allows consumers to stay connected with our friends, with Facebook being the dominant vehicle. SnapChat is doing a great job targeting teenagers and WhatsApp has become popular all over the world (outside North America).
  • Now, e-commerce has become commonplace. So when we want to do things, buy things or go places, we are more likely to reach for our laptops or mobile. than go out to browse the shopping malls. We have some amazing options at our fingertips including Amazon, TicketMaster, Trip  Advisor and Airbnb.

Knowing the 8 ways for how consumers use media should help to match up your brand to the right media choice. As we started to play with these 8 ways that consumers use media, it struck us how closely it links with our Emotional Cheat Sheet we created that maps out the 8 emotional consumer moods that consumers go through each day. These 8 zones include optimism, freedom, being noticed, being liked, comfort, be myself, be in control and knowledge. For more information on this cheat sheet, contact Hotspex at http://www.hotspex.biz  These emotional zones can impact your brand’s emotional benefit in a positioning statement as well as the tone of the delivery of your message.

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Below, we show see how closely the consumer emotional need states match up to the consumer media needs. Use this to ensure the media choice you use matches up to the emotional tone of the message you deliver.

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2. The depth of consumer connection matters

We created the Brand Love Curve to define the strength of the bond that brands have generated with their consumers. At the beginning of the Brand Love Curve, the brands act like a commodity with no connection and we refer to those brands as “Indifferent”. Brands at the Indifferent stage has to focus on the consumer’s head, trying to get consumers to think differently about their brand. Brands move to the “Like It” stage as they separate themselves in the mind of consumers, a rational separation with limited emotional connection.Brands at the Like It stage need to drive action to get consumers to buy and create a bigger following. As the bond becomes tighter, consumers may develop an emotional connection, we refer to those brands as “Love It”. Brands at the Love It stage has to focus on the consumer’s heart, to get current loyal users to connect on a deeper level. And finally, the best brands in the world have the tightest bond with consumers, almost a cult-like following equal to a sports team. We refer to these as the “Beloved” stage. Brands at the Beloved stage have to get those who love the brand to feel part and become outspoken advocates that will influence their network.

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We then find the Media Strategy options by matching the brand strategies we created with the brand love curve up to a consumer buying system that tracks how consumers shop, moving from awareness to purchase to experience and onto being loyal. Below, we can see that brands at the Indifferent stage should focus on the early parts of the consumer buying system with your investment into awareness, consideration and search to influence consumers to move to purchase. For those brands at the Like It stage,  we recommend you focus on the purchase moment in order to close deals and develop a bigger following. Brands at the Love It stage should put their investment into turning satisfied consumers into repeating and then becoming loyal brand fans. At the Beloved stage, your effort should be taking those consumers who love you and mobilizing them to become and outspoken army that generates awareness on their own.

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3. Marketing to the “many moments of me” during the day.

This is a simple but an essential tool that helps match up your media choice to the moment in your consumer’s day where/when they are most likely to engage. Yes, it’s very tactical, but with all the media possibilities, time of day will help ensure you have the right message. The consumer’s mindset changes during the course of the day, based on where they are or what they are doing. If you are selling a house, people might google search during their lunch hours or go visit on the weekends.

The consumer’s mindset also changes during the course of the week, as they are in a different mood on a Monday vs. Thursday, or vs. Saturday. If you are selling healthcare products, try to own Sunday night when consumers are in a thinking mood, whereas you can avoid Thursday and Friday when  they are just planning out the entertainment for their weekend.

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Always think like your consumer and you will make better media choices

 

To read more about Media Planning for brand leaders, read the following presentation:

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

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10 annoying tactics that give Marketers a bad reputation

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Beloved Brands in the Market

 

1e1d5d079e23366d1149ea834ce8102f62d562519d45930ae0c0fb1b485ffff7I’m a marketer at heart. In terms of career, it’s all I know and all I am. I claim to love everything about marketing. Well, nearly everything. Here are 10 things i despise and even more importantly I believe give us marketers a bad reputation. As Mike Ditka would say “STOP IT”.

  1. The price of popcorn at the Movie Theatre. At the grocery store, a single bag of Orville’s popcorn goes for 29 cents a bag. Yet at the movie theatre, it costs $5.99. I get that the movie is using popcorn to cover the overhead.  But it really is blatantly treating your consumer like a hostage. “Combos” (popcorn plus pop or candy) are even worse. At my theatre, one night while I was 9th in line, I added them up and there is zero savings. So I asked the kid at the front. And the answer the poor kid had to give was “the combos are more convenience than savings”. Wow. That just gives us a bad reputation.
  2. Freight and PDI on a New Car. If you’ve ever bought a car, you have to pay something called freight and PDI. It’s really an admin fee for shipping and preparing the car. What’s frustrating is the negotiation process in buying a car. This is just one more tool at the disposal of the sales people. I know Saturn tried the “no price negotiation” strategy and it backfired. Negotiations with so many moving parts can be a brutal experience. And many times, you start off day 1 with such a negative experience that you’re mad at the brand. Why would you want that?
  3. That’s not all, if you call now…’ Yes, telemarketing is a necessary evil of the marketing game. I’m not a fan. The worst line ever invented is “that’s not all”. That just means we’ve taken this low-cost item we’re trying to sell you and give you a second one for free.  But the rip-off is the “you just pay the shipping and handling” line. You’re likely paying an extra $8=10 in shipping and handling, where the company makes a huge profit on that amount. It’s never double the price to ship two items in the same parcel. And the handling? I wish these guys would stop preying on the defense-less consumer. These techniques make us look bad.
  4. 100% Money Back Warranty…’except for’: A few years ago, I decided to buy a Toshiba Ultrabook, as it was slightly cheaper than the Mac version. While the Toshiba was a bit flimsy, I decided to buy the 3 year extra service plan from Best Buy. I was told “don’t worry, this warranty covers everything, and while it’s being repaired, we’ll even give you a loaner version”. I figured OK, I”m covered. Six months in, the flimsy screen caught up to me and all of a sudden I couldn’t see anything. Confidently, I took it back to Best Buy. They gave me a loaner and a week later said “we can fix it, but the cost to you will be $400” I said “but I have the full warranty”. And they said “yes, but the warranty does not cover software, hardware or battery”. HUH? What else is there? There is nothing else but software, hardware or battery to a computer. Anyway, I bought a new Mac. No wonder Apple does so well in an industry like this.
  5. Paying $3 for headphones on the Airplane. I know pretty much every airline is nearly bankrupt. And I’d never invest a penny into an airline. But the shift to charging the consumer for everything seems like the wrong way to go. There have to be more creative ways than charging $3 for headphones. I was recently on a flight that cost me $1700, which makes that headphone fee about 0.18% of the overall price. Is it really making a dent in the balance sheet of your airline?  Or is giving the consumer a small token a bad thing?
  6. Email Lists you didn’t know you signed up for. I manage my email as best I can. For about 2 months now, I’m getting weekly Hilton Honors email blasts. I finally un-subscribed.  Some of the un-subscribes are easy.  But others are painful with 3 or 4 steps to confirm I really want to un-subscribe and I’m not “mistaken”. Email marketing is just the new form of junk mail. I guess it works for 3% of customers so to get the money from those guys, let’s bug the 97% of customers who don’t want emails cluttering up their inbox. Let’s make it so hard to tick off that “no email thank you” box that we can annoy our most loyal consumers.
  7. Paying more for a large hot tea versus a small: There are 3 component costs in hot tea. The cup, the bag and the water. The only thing that changes with a larger size is more water. Any chance to rip-off the consumer.
  8. 3-year Cell Phone Contracts: When the technology changes every six months and you’re teenager drops (or throws) their phone at least once a week, having that long contract feels like a prison sentence. I get the whole it’s the only way we can cover the cost. But it puts all these phone companies into a position where they get the sale but lose the customer’s loyalty. It’s not a way to build a long-term love affair but rather a growing hatred for one another.
  9. Gas Price Games.  I want one simple rule for gas prices. You have to set them on the first day of the month and leave that price the entire month. Have you ever noticed that the price of gas goes up immediately at the start of a crisis–in anticipation of prices going up.  So a hurricane hits, prices jump up that day just in case the oil industry is affected. Not because it’s been affected. Just in case. Yet the prices don’t come down in anticipation of the world crisis ending,
  10. Call center cold calls at home. Even worse than junk email cluttering up my inbox are the phone calls coming from overseas. I’ve signed up for the “Do Not Call”, but I guess the loophole is to now call from overseas. You’re in the middle of cooking dinner and the phone rings. And there is some 7 second delay before someone says “Hi Mr Robertson”.

These 10 things are very common to most consumers causing great frustration but also lack of respect for the marketing profession. And yes, it is a profession. What are the things about marketing that annoy you and damage our reputation?

How do we get these guys to “Stop It”?

Read more on how to create a beloved brand:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

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Has Coke lost their way?

Posted on 9 CommentsPosted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Yes.

As a Marketer, I wish it wasn’t true. I am a huge fan of great Marketing and Coke has always been one of the best. Being a fan of Coke is likely how it feels for Manchester United fans to see your team fall to fifth place in the standings or Montreal Canadiens fans to see your team completely miss the playoffs. I hate seeing what’s happening with Coke.

I have heard a lot of Marketers suggest that Coke’s downfall is because “Coke is bad for you”.  Of course it is bad for you. So is beer, chocolate and fast cars and yet those categories are going strong. Plus, when looking at a change in sales, you must look to see what has changed. We have known that Coke was bad for you for the past 15 years, yet from 2000 to 2014, Coke saw strong steady years of growth. Coke’s Marketing was bucking the underlying “health” trend that should be bringing them down.

If I invested $10,000 in Coke in 2005, it would have turned into $22,000 by 2014, significantly beating the stock market. However, 18 months later with declining sales trend, that $22,000 is still $22,000 and Coke is now in panic mode. 

At Beloved Brands, we believe that Brands have to create a REPUTATION that connects quickly and lasts in the minds and hearts of the CONSUMER, generating a tight BOND, POWER and PROFITbeyond what the product alone could achieve.  From 2000 to 2014, Coke had been using a “Happiness” platform to make everyone feel good. It wasn’t the most strategic, but the execution was terrific. Cute polar bears, story-telling, names on labels, innovative viral ads. It was working. However, in the last 18 months, there appears to be a ton of confusion on what is the Coke reputation. This has led to lower consumer connectivity, driving lower sales and profits. At the beloved stage, the marketing effort has to shift to transforming your brand into an experience. Beloved brands create magic with the consumers, so they feel more and think less. When I look at what Coke has done with a new master brand strategy, new red cans for all brands and focusing on the product, I see a brand that is thinking more and feeling less. As a fan of Coke, they are now putting the brand at risk of becoming the next Kodak, Sony and General Motors. I hope they figure it out fast and get back to having fun.

To us, Marketing involves a process of THINK, PLAN, DECIDE, EXECUTE. The panic mode of facing declines has them thinking too much about the sales line and not enough about the reputation they manage with consumers. Some of the decisions they are making appear to be the wrong decisions and the panic mode has them on the wrong path. Let’s hope they can find their way.

2005-2015: The 3 things Coke did to keep the growth alive

We have known for a while that Coke was bad for us, yet we kept drinking it. It was fun moment to have with friends, a great thirst quencher on a hot summer day, and even a piece of American history in every bottle. Coke used amazing tactical executions to keep the brand alive in our hearts.

1. New Lifestyle machines turned Coke into an experience: 

When I was a kid, it was so much fun to go up to the pop fountain and combine every flavour: a bit of Coke, a bit of Sprite and Orange or Root Beer and back to the coke for a bit more. But Coke’s new Freestyle machines took that to the level combining art, science, entertainment and design to give you up to 100 options to make the fountain drink of your choice. These machines, not only give you a drink, but a fun and very cool interactive experience. They make Coke magical and fun, keeping the love affair with Coke alive. This is helping consumers to feel more and think less.

2. Beautiful ads that made us feel good about ourselves:

Coke has done amazing advertising work for the past 80 years. They invented our visual of Santa and taught the world to sing. The best Coke ads aren’t filled with highly strategic messages but just great feelings. In so many focus groups, I have heard consumers say, “I love the Coke polar bear ads”. When I’d ask why, all anyone can ever say is “they make me feel good”. Coke really did a good job around the “share happiness” ads. Below is a great viral ad where a Coke machine gives out free Cokes and Pizza to College students. These ads are focused on getting consumers to feel more and think less.

 

 

3. Names on bottles that makes Coke seem very personal:

When I first saw names on cans and bottles, I was highly skeptical. As a Marketer, I thought about the painful logistics of inventory management. I forgot to think like a consumer.  This is a very fun, light-hearted tactic for Coke, perfectly fitting with the share happiness brand idea. This program helps consumers to feel more and think less.

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2015-2016: The 3 things Coke is doing to inhibit growth

1. Listing the calories as a positive feature on the bottles:

So we know Coke is bad for us.  Many diets suggest never drink your calories. Coke is loaded with sugar. We all saw Coke fighting the New York mayor on portion sizes and we know they are fighting legislation on labelling standards. But now Coke trying to turn their 149 calories per can into a positive is one of the craziest ideas I have seen since McDonald’s told us their hamburgers use “real beef”.  In a social media world, it has set up the brand to ridicule. (e.g. Coke has more calories than a Cinnabon). This type of feature is more about thinking and less about feeling. 

2. You shouldn’t use a Master Brand strategy when you don’t have one master brand consumer:

Usually a master brand strategy works when you can build separate brands under the same idea and even cross-polinate consumers from product to product. However, Coke, Diet Coke and even Coke Zero have three distinct types of consumers. The new Coke master brand strategy feels like a complete force fit.  The two sugar-free consumers would rarely if ever drink a real Coke. Now if it was 1981 and Coke decided to use a Master brand approach, maybe that would have worked. But 35 years later, they have THREE huge brands on their hands. In fact, Diet Coke is the #2 brand in the category next to Coke. In theory, the brand and the variant can go together. But in practice, bringing them together after the fact is extremely difficult. Just imagine if Microsoft decided to re-name the Xbox with Surface. High risk, no value move. Their new “Taste the Feeling” advertising campaign is all about SELLING MORE PRODUCT.  It’s an OK spot, not a great spot. For a 90 second spot called “Anthem” it lacks the emotional appeal you would expect, and it won’t really generate any viral share-ability. In fact, it on has 650,000 YouTube views so far.  It has a lot of product shots, but not really the connectivity needed to move product. And the Diet Coke branding is so bad that you could almost have a contest to spot the “Diet Coke”. This type of advertising is more about moving the feet and less about feeling.

 

 

3. New packaging is ugly and off-strategy: 

First, I believe that packaging is one of Coke’s biggest strengths. Obviously, the red Coke has 100 years of heritage, and matches the heavy syrup taste of Coke. However, the Diet Coke silver/white package conveys a lighter taste than the red package, appealing mostly to women. The Coke Zero black package stood out in the grocery aisles and grabbed a higher share of the male consumer looking for a sugar-free option. Having three separate packages for three different consumers is a smart strategy. The only explanation I have heard for this type of packaging is “Brand Blocking”.  You’re joking right?  Coke is already a dominant brand in a huge aisle of the grocery section. Having all red will actually hurt them on the shelf as it will be confusing for the separate customers. I’d rather 10 feet of red, 10 feet of silver and 10 feet of black. Plus, this new packaging is ugly!!!  This is just confusing to the consumer, it won’t get to think, feel or even move feet. My hope is that comes to their senses quickly and goes back to the normal packaging. QUICKLY.

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Coke has to return to capturing the magic with consumers. Think less. Feel more.

 

Here’s a presentation on what makes a Beloved Brand:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

Positioning 2016.112

Forget the 4 P’s. Focus on the 5 touch-points of consumer connectivity

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Beloved Brands Explained

 

The 4 P’s

Most of us started learning about marketing by looking at the 4 P’s:  Product, Price, Promotion and Place. While I’ve seen people adding P’s, a fifth one and even have seen up to eight P’s. I guess it’s a fairly easy way to teach marketing. It’s an OK way to learn, but it seems to treat marketing like an activity and not really a strategy. The 4 Ps are obsessed with what you do, and start you on the path of always thinking about YOU YOU YOU!  The 4 P’s almost ignore the consumer.   Over my 20 years, I learned that the only source of revenue was the consumer, not the product. Sure, we sell the product. Or, better yet, someone buys our brand. It’s just about mindset of how you wish to run your brand. I believe that everything had to start and end with the consumer in mind. We will show you below how we start with the consumer and map out the 5 touch-points of consumer connectivity–the promise, brand story, innovation, purchase moment and brand experience.

 

The natural evolution of brands

It’s true that most brands do start off as a product or service that helps to address some type of problem the consumer has in their lives. Early on it’s about a selling activity where you push your brand onto the target market and hope they buy. As the brand evolves, you start to establish an identity for the brand that gets well-known, you start narrowing what you’re naturally best at down to a promise and begin executing and building your experience around the promise. As you keep evolving, the Brand starts to shift towards becoming an Idea that helps solve the consumer’s emotional problems.

    • Apple is not just a computer or cell phone. It’s based on an idea of “simplicity that deals with the frustration over technology”.
    • Dove is not just a soap or hand cream, but all about the idea of “real beauty that allows women to feel comfortable with who they are”.
    • Starbucks is not just a coffee and pastries, but an “escape from a hectic day”

While a lot of the Beloved Brands have taken 20 years or even 90 years to earn their status, you can advance your brand faster by starting off as an idea. It becomes less about product and more about the big idea from day 1. It becomes less about hopeful tactics and more about insightful strategy.  You’ll be able to build around the idea rather than getting stuck in the constraints of what your product does. An idea helps you connect with consumers and that connection gives your brand added power, and the power can be used to drive higher growth and profits.

A Beloved Brand is based on an idea that’s worth loving.

 

The 5 touch-points of consumer connectivity

The biggest problem I have with the 4 P’s is that it builds the brand from your the vantage point of the company, not the vantage of the consumer who actually matters the most. I would rather start with the consumer and then build your brand, based on a promise that motivates consumers, a brand story that engages consumers, an innovation plan that keeps the consumer connected, mapping out what the consumer goes through to the purchase moment and building a consumer experience that helps the brand connect with their consumers.

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

  1. Brand Promise
  2. Brand Story
  3. Innovation
  4. Purchase Moment
  5. Experience
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  1. Brand Promise: Create a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, based on being better, different or cheaper. Try to use a brand positioning exercise to figure out your brand’s value proposition–we use a brand ladder where we map out the target definition, product features, rational benefits and emotional benefits.
  2. Brand Story: At Beloved Brands, we see Advertising as a tool for telling your brand story in a way that creates a bond with consumers, to establish your brand’s positioning and to drive change in your consumers behavior that leads to higher sales, share and profit. You should use your brand story to motivate consumers to think, feel or act, while beginning to own a reputation in the mind and hearts of consumers.
  3. Innovation: Fundamentally sound product, staying at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise. The trick with innovation is keeping the serendipity of an R&D team aligned, while pushing for a balance of blue ocean against straying within the perimeters of the brand strategy. New products have to meet consumer needs and many times creating a consumer need they didn’t even know they had.
  4. Purchase Moment: As consumers get near the purchase, there becomes this “moment of truth” when they have to make the final decision to buy. How we manage that, is we use a buying system to map out how consumers move through the purchase cycle and use channels, messaging, processes to make the final decision.
  5. Experience: Turn the usage of your product into an experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of their day. One of the best brand experiences is Starbucks, providing consumers with more than just coffee, but rather an escape from daily grind a hectic life. At Starbucks, you find that little moment between home life and work life, a cool atmosphere indie music and leather chairs, a barista that knows your name and your drink, you can order in Italian and one of the best things they manage to indirectly achieve–no screaming little kids.

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

Once you establish that big idea, you can align each of the 5 magic moments underneath that big idea.

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

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The most beloved brands are strong on all of the 5 touch-points of consumer connectivity

Here’s a presentation on what makes a Beloved Brand:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

Positioning 2016.112

 

How the most beloved brands fall from grace

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

 

 

Very few beloved brands stay on top for long. 

The reason I created the Brand Love Curve is that I wanted to find a unique way to talk about the emotional bond I was seeing between brands and consumers.

I first came up with the idea when I was in charge of a Marketing department that had 20 different brands all operating at various levels of success. Honestly, it was hard for me to keep track of where each brand was and I did not want to apply one-size-fits-all type strategies to brands that had different needs. Sure I could have used some of the traditional tools such as Boston Consulting Group matrix with market share versus category growth rates, or I could have looked at various other dimensions related to revenue size, margin rates, competitive advantage or various other metrics.

The beauty of the Brand Love Curve is that it starts with the most important part of the brand: THE CONSUMER. Everything in Marketing has to start and end with the consumer in mind. It assesses the brand’s performance solely on how tightly connected consumers are with your brand. The more connected the brand, the easier it was to Market. It commanded more power and generated more profit.

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When I looked at my own portfolio of brands, I started to noticed that the biggest difference was how tightly connected some brands were with their consumer. I started to refer to the poor performing brands as “indifferent” where consumers did not really care about the brand and then I called the best brands “beloved” because consumers were emotionally engaged. I started to see the difference. I could clearly see that brands with a stronger bond had it easier and that almost everything on those brands was better. Launches of new products were easier because consumers were more accepting. Retailers gave these brands preferential treatment because they knew their consumers wanted them. My own people were more excited to work on these brands, thinking it was a career advancement to get the chance to be part of the beloved brand.  I could see that beloved brands had better share results, better consumer tracking scores and in many cases better margins. It was easier to get price increases through. It seemed that everyone in the organization cared about these beloved brands. My agencies bragged about the work they did on these beloved brands. As I kept exploring this idea, the idea of the Brand Love Curve came to me and I started to map where each our 20 brands sat on this hypothetical curve. As the consumer start with a new brand, they were indifferent, then they started to like it, then loved it, and finally it would become a beloved brand. The goal becomes to move along the curve towards the beloved status.

As I worked with the Brand Love Curve,  I started to see the link between where the brand sat on the curve and our strategy choices available, we started to see there was a difference in the balance of rational and emotional benefits, which impacted our advertising and media planning. I could start to see how the Brand Love Curve could really drive every part of how we manage the brand. The goal became how do we move the brand along the curve because as we discussed in the previous section, if brand love helps your brand become more powerful and profitable, then any degree of added love was a good thing.

At the beloved stage, the brand becomes iconic that is famous and highly regarded with consumers.

Consumers become equal to fans, similar to fans of sports teams or celebrities. They become outspoken, possessive and will defend the brand at any point. The brand becomes a self expression of the consumers, a ritual or favorite part of the day. People have conversations about these brands, whether on social media or at the lunch table. The emotional connection becomes so strong, that consumers feel more and think less. Demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become blind to pure logic and deaf to rational product based competitors. These brands have strength on every part of the robust brand funnel, near perfect awareness levels, high purchase intentions, high repeat and high loyalty. Voice of the customer is very strong, and the brand listens to ensure they are attacking any weakness before it can be exploited. The brand has a big idea, with every consumer touch point easily tying back and re-enforcing the big idea. The brand has a sense of power and uses it quietly against all stakeholders from consumers to competitors and retailers, while leveraging it with key influencers and media. The brand is driving every lever of their profit statements to continue strong sales growth and healthy margins, driving price premiums, lower costs, higher market shares and leveraging the core base of brand fans to enter new categories.

The most beloved brands we have tracked includes Apple, Starbucks, Nike, Google and Mercedes. In a sense, these brands are flawless in their strategy and execution—fully respected, desired and cherished, while wielding the power in the marketplace to create extremely profitable and valuable brands. Some of the world’s newest challengers for beloved brands status includes Uber, Whole Foods, Netflix, Beats by Dre and Tesla. Impressed by how fast they have risen in the market, but not yet flawless, only time will tell if they can survive near the top.

Staying at the top is just as hard as getting there. Just ask former beloved brands that have fallen from grace, including Blackberry, Gap Clothing, Kodak, Cadillac or Benneton.

 

The 5 ways that Beloved Brands fall from grace

  1. Beloved Brands forget who they are and what it was that made them famous. Benetton is great example of a brand who forgot what made them famous. In 1990, Benetton could do no wrong. Business schools wrote case studies of their success and Ad Agencies held them up as the brand of envy for all clients to learn from.benetton-ad-1991 They had shock-value advertising campaigns that people talked about at the lunch table and there was a Benetton store in every mall. Their colorful and stylish fashion was the desire of the core teenage crowd. Benetton’s brand promise was providing European fashions at an affordable price. But the arrogance of the “can do no wrong” brand quickly faded. While they were so busy creating shock-value advertising and arrogantly talking of their brand as it were art itself they forgot about the fashion part of the business. Benetton started to look like a hollow promise of cool ads with not-so-cool clothing. Also, Benetton expanded so broadly and so fast, they opted for franchises instead of maintaining ownership over the distribution. The managing of the large franchise network became a drain on the company and there’s a belief that not being close to the consumers in the stores hurt their ability to listen to what teenagers were saying and wearing. With a fickle teenage target, Benetton quickly went from a must-have to a has-been brand.
  2. Brands that struggle to keep up with the times. The Beloved Brands of General Motors–Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Corvette–not only peaked in the 1970’s, but found themselves stuck their as well. The 70’s were one of those decades with such a distinct look with Disco, perms, gold chains and the 3-piece suit, that most things connected to the 70’s were completely rejected in the 1980’s. Not-Your-Fathers-OldsmobileA brand like Cadillac was the ultimate luxury brand, so revered that people would describe the best brand of any category as “it’s the Cadillac of….” but that has since been replaced by “it’s the Mercedes of…..” Cadillac’s unit sales peaked in 1973 just as gas prices began to rise and the look of those huge gas-guzzlers. It no longer fit the desires of the Yuppies of the 1980’s who were now opting for sleeker luxury with Mercedes and BMW. The Corvette brand had done a nice job transitioning from the 50’s of James Dean through the 60’s and 70’s, always remaining as an icon of sophisticated American cool. But Corvette failed to update their 1970’s brand look until 1984, which was too late to escape the stigma and giggles of those who looked at the drivers as having a “mid-life crisis”. Consumers of the 80’s were now driving smaller and sleeker sports cars like the RX7, 280Z and later on the Miata. And finally, the Oldsmobile was a classic American family car who sales soared through the 1970’s. By the mid-80’s, in an effort to try to capture a new generation, they used the infamous tagline of “Not your father’s Oldsmobile” which only re-enforced that it WAS your father’s Oldsmobile. I believe that the near-bankruptcy of General Motors can be traced back to the 1970’s when the brands peaked and yet felt stuck in a time-warp forever. GM failed to keep up in design, and failed to change as gas prices rose dramatically. They found themselves attacked on the lower end from the Japanese cars like Toyota and Honda and at the higher end from German brands like Mercedes, Porsche, Audi and BMW.
  3. They make the wrong strategic choices because they think of themselves before the consumer. Gap Clothing got greedy and forgot what made them great: trendy American fashion for a stylish generation at a reasonable price. And who is the spokesperson for fashion: the coolest people on earth: TEENAGERS of course. Every generation of Teens believes they are the most important people on earth and they want products that speak for their generation. It’s all about them.gap They influence Music, Movies, TV Shows and Clothing and believe each has to speak directly to them and for them. Imagine being 15 in the late 90’s, you’re walking in your favorite mall, trying to be as cool as can be, heading for your favorite clothing store. All of a sudden, you look up and your favorite clothing brand is now flanked by BABY GAP on one side and GAP MATERNITY on the other side. How could this brand speak for the teen generation, when your 2-year-old nephews are wearing a mini-version of what you’re wearing or your pregnant Aunt is wearing the stretchy version? GAP made the mistake of putting their name on all their line extensions, which most fans of Master Brands thinks strengthens the brand but it actually runs the risk of actually weakening the brand. GAP also forgot about feeding that desire for leading edge, trendy clothing–the whole reason for that “8 seasons” rotation of inventory. Go into a GAP store this year, and you’ll realize how boring and drab the products have become. No teenager today loves GAP or even thinks much about GAP. They are totally indifferent. Fast forward to 2011, GAP Clothing sales are down 19% this year and down over 25% since the peak of 2005. They have just announced the closing of 200 stores–which will continue the downward spiral.
  4. If you are Afraid to attack yourself, expect an attack from someone else. Kodak was such a revered brand for so long, but their refusal to attack themselves opened up so many windows of attack from others. The first attack came in the traditional film business from low-priced Fuji film. Kodak did nothing to stop Fuji for fear of eroding their margin, letting Fuji gain a 17% share of the film market.Untitled-2 The second attack came from new entrants into the digital camera market before Kodak was ready to enter. Even though Kodak had the first digital camera as early as 1975, the product was dropped internally for fear it would threaten Kodak’s photographic film business. In 1990 Kodak finally laid out a plan to enter the digital camera market but took another decade to enter the market. The world was changing, yet Kodak executives still could not fathom a world without traditional film which gave them little incentive to deviate into the digital camera space. The third attack came once Kodak entered the digital camera space.  Kodak entered at the high-end of the market and for a brief moment was the #1 digital camera. But Kodak failed to recognize how quickly the digital camera market would become commoditized. They did cut their prices, but couldn’t lower their cost of goods fast enough to keep up with the Japanese manufacturers. Kodak was losing $60 for every camera sold at the same time as their traditional film business was dying. The result: Bankruptcy. Interestingly enough, at the time of their bankruptcy, Kodak released 1000’s of patents for sale. It’s not a question of innovation that killed Kodak, it’s a refusal to act on the right innovation in a timely fashion. They failed to attack themselves only to let others attack and ultimately destroy them.
  5. Lose focus and let the experience slide. A recent case study in a brand experience not living up to expectations is the Blackberry. It’s a classic case where they grabbed early share as the category innovator and then forgot to keep making improvements to the overall experience. maxresdefault-1The list of problems for blackberry is long: major service outages, keyboard that sticks, small screen size, bad cameras, poor quality speaker-phone, slow internet browser and when the screen freezes you have to take the battery out and re-boot. In my last few months as an angry blackberry user, I was taking the battery out 5x a day. The leaders at RIM believed they were invincible almost laughing when Apple launched the iPhone. These guys would next launch a tablet without any Apps on it. Oh man! What I think Blackberry’s biggest failure is not mapping out the customer experience and attacking every possible weakness. It’s a classic case of technology first and then thrust it into the marketplace and hope it sells. The blackberry experience has just not kept pace with Android and Apple. As a result, the RIM share price is down 95% since its peak of 2008.

Maintaining beloved brand status

  1. Focus on maintaining the magic and love the brand has created with the core brand fans. Focus most of your attention on those who love you the most. Treat them special. Listen to your consumer, giving them a voice at the table, with the brand being responsive as it can. Market the Big Idea, sell the innovation and the experience. Continue to invest in product innovation and brand experience. Leverage both into telling the overall brand story, using the big idea to push the marketing effort in two separate layers: tell the master brand story about the big idea and the related experience, tell the specific product innovation stories linking how they support and build on the brand’s big idea.
  2. Perfect the experience: For those who love the brand, it is no longer just about the product, it becomes about the experience. Build a culture and organization around the brand that will keep finding new ways to surprise and delight consumers. Perfect every possible touchpoint with the consumer. Attack the brand before it can be attacked by others: The biggest competitor for these brands is the brand itself. The constant goal has to be about getting better. Any degree of complacency will set the brand up for future attacks. Never become complacent or these brands will be replaced by challenger brands wanting to achieve the beloved status.
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  3. Broaden the offering and broaden the audience: Take advantage of your brand’s loyal following to launch peripheral products that build on the routine. Capture more share of wallet of your most loyal consumers.To ensure you are a brand that goes beyond the current generation of consumers, begin thinking about how to spread your brand to other age groups. A lot of fashion brands and restaurant brands have been trapped into the current generation and lose the status as styles change.

The most beloved brands must keep the love alive, attack yourself, and use your fans as spokespeople. 

 

Here’s a presentation on what makes a Beloved Brand:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

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How to write a Monthly Report for your brand

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

“You run the brand. Don’t Let the Brand Run You”

Every brand should have a monthly report to track how the brand is doing through the course of the year. In fact, if you are investing in a brand, it’s almost negligent not to do one. While these reports can feel tedious to write, the 3-4 hours it takes to dig in is a good investment in discipline, knowledge as well as maintaining that touch-feel of managing of the brand.

The monthly report serves as a guide for all those across the company to stay on track with the annual plan everyone is committed to delivering. It gives senior management awareness of the grass-root issues, it enables course correction decisions at the senior levels, it exposes weakness and risk. It should carry action statements within the document that serve as a mini-version of the brand plan. We break it into two sections, to show both the consumption performance (market share) and the shipment performance (sales). And finally, it gives everyone a sense that the brand team has full control of what’s happening on delivering the plan.

Your monthly report should answer the following CONSUMPTION questions:

  1. What’s the one-line story that captures what’s happening on the brand? This is your elevator speech for the CEO.
  2. What’s the dollar, tonnage or unit share, on a 4 week, 12 week and YTD basis? Focus on the share that the company uses–it can vary. Having all 3 time breaks allows people to see the trends.
  3. How’s the brand doing vs year ago, prior periods, vs the category or vs plan for the year? Speak in terms of both % and share point changes. Theory of relativity allows you to tell the story better.
  4. What’s the competition doing? Trends in the consumption, tracking results related to their brand funnel or potential action that’s rumoured in the marketplace.
  5. What are the top 3 drivers of the brand for the month or year? It can be a combination of consumption trends (sku, regions, channel, account, flavour etc), beneath the surface Brand Funnel scores, program results that are contributing to share, competitive moves. Explain how you’re going to continue these going forward.
  6. What are the 3 inhibitors and what are you doing about it? These are things that are holding back the brand. Expose weaknesses you’re seeing in the programs, potential distribution gaps, competitive moves that are beating you, changes in consumer behaviour etc. Explain what you plan to do about it, giving the assurance that you are running the brand.
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Your monthly report should answer the following SHIPMENT questions:

  1. What’s the one-line story that captures what’s happening on the brand? This might be the story that you know you could back up, when confronted by the VP of sales in the same elevator. If it’s bad news, they will have to answer to the CEO.
  2. What’s the overall sales for the month, the quarter and how will it impact the year-end call? Senior management might adjust their own forecast or may change their short-term investment stance based on that performance.
  3. How are the sales by key account, by skus or by regions? Track on both the month and on a YTD basis. This highlights strength and exposes weakness.
  4. What are the top 3 drivers of the brand for the month or year? You want to highlight the accounts, skus or regions that are showing the most growth, explain why and tell what you’re going to do to keep these going.
  5. What are the 3 inhibitors and what are you doing about it? These are things that are holding back the brand. While the sales numbers are in the chart, start to explain the top line of what’s happening. Connect with the Account lead, ensuring they buy in to the statement you’re about to put. This gives you a chance to stay connected to what’s happening on each account. If your account people aren’t great at getting back to you, saying “I’m about to write a monthly report for the President and I want to know what’s going on at your account”. They’ll get back to you. Also, you need answers in the report to show that you are trying to get as much out of the brand as you can. Both short and long-term.
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Digging In

As you are analyzing the mounds of data in front of you, you want to dig in everywhere that you can.

  • Start at the 4 week share for the brand overall, compare it to the 12-week, then the 52 week and see the major trend. This is the start of the story. Dig deeper on regions, channels and skus, figuring out the relative differences you start to see–either on the overall share basis (development index) or on the overall growth rate. Do the same with major competitors. That should give you the basis of your 4-week story and you can begin the document.
  • You next want to focus on the performance for the overall year. With both consumption and share, you want to give management a good forecast on what you think will happen. This can be in consultation with sales and your demand teams. The story has to be consistently told and shared with the senior leaders. If they sense a disconnect, it will look bad on you.
  • If you have good tracking studies, dig in on program tracking (advertising, sampling, in-store, professional recommendations etc) any brand funnel tracking (awareness, trial, repeat, U&A) that can support what’s happening on the consumption and shipments.
  • Drivers and Inhibitors are things that are happening in the market, not things that could happen. Ideally, they should match up to the Annual Brand Plan and the objectives on the brand. Think of these monthly reports like 1/12th of your brand plan–not only highlighting how the brand is doing, but what you are willing to do about it.
  • Keep it all on one page, forcing your writing style to be more direct. A senior leader should be able to digest it in 10 minutes.

When I was an Assistant Brand Manager (ABM), I dreaded doing the monthly report. It was a chore that cut into my life. I always wondered if anyone read them. I was awful at the beginning and then became a master of the report. I kept thinking if I can just get promoted to Brand Manager, I’ll no longer have to do them. But as I made it up to the VP level, I read them in detail, even sending back questions for each brand. Then, I started to do my own version of the report for the President. I dug in as I had at the ABM level and crafted the story. Not only did it project a sense of control to my boss, it also allowed me to sleep better because it gave me the sense that I knew what was going on.

Brand Dashboard

There is tremendous value in setting up a Brand Dashboard across your business.  You should be looking at brand wealth indicators such as Sales, Market Share, Margins, but you should also be looking at brand health scores such as brand funnel data (awareness, trial), program performance scores (advertising tracking) and distribution scores. Here is the example we use for most brands, but it really does matter on the key indicators for your brand.

Brand Plans 2016.074
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Here’s our training workshop we run on creating a Business Review for your brand:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

 

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