Why mergers suck for brands

[sg_popup id=”9″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]All the talk of who 3G might purchase next, has brand managers around the world wondering if they are next. If you have ever gone through a merger, you will know that they suck. If you have not gone through one yet, you will likely find out soon how badly they suck. Not only do they suck for brands, they suck for brand managers. Most mergers however, seem to come out of nowhere. A little like a blockbuster trade in sports, they shock the system. mergers suck

I bring a unique expertise to this merger topic, having survived three and half of them. One was so small and fast, I would call it half. I know people who have gone through 5 or 6 of them.

With each merger, the companies used a different ‘merger rule’: one went fast, one went slow and one went clumsy. Sadly, I used one ‘merger rule’ in that I was relatively a “jack ass” at various points of all 3 mergers. Apparently I have a ‘low EQ’. They say it takes 2 years for a merger to work. From my experience, it takes until the next merger to truly feel like ‘one team’. Some companies appear to go through mergers every few years. The poor people at Kraft have been traded around so many times, people’s resumes are starting to resemble a pop-up book more than a clean sheet of paper.

The data even suggests that mergers suck

M&A research studies estimate 83% of companies fail to reach their merger goals. With those statistics, you would expect companies would avoid all merger activity. The problem is cutting the check is much easier than the work it takes to make the actual merger work. The only winners appear to be the investment banks that finance the deals and the consultants who churn out very high-priced org charts.

I worked on one merger where the final purchase price was almost twice what we valued ourselves. We were happy until we realized our new bosses were paying too much and it would just mean future cuts to make the merger pay off. Ten years later, they are still cutting. I was shocked at the lack of pre-planning from those who bought us. They barely knew what we did. I remember one of our new owners said “we bought you because of your global breadth”. I did not have the heart to tell him the truth, in that we were not very global at all, but we were really just in 10 markets that were far apart from each other. Everyone after the merger talks about culture. They make tons of culture posters. But, it seems no one ever considers the cultural fit before the purchase.

No one ever says, “Congratulations, we want to add money to your brand.”

The brands do not benefit. With a distracted company sorting through the complexities of the merger and trying to make the numbers at all costs, brand advertising and risky innovations are the first cuts. Brand Leaders do not benefit. They have to re-work and re-work slides for new management. The discussions with the new bosses take a huge step back with brilliant questions like, “So tell me how this product works again?” or “Have we always done it that way?” With a need for synergies, the high-priced merger consultant just groups brands together in the new org charts. The brand leader feels lucky just to keep their job, even if their portfolio has doubled, for the same salary. Less attention is paid to each brand with the crucial attention to detail slipping. Brand budgets are scrutinized and cut, any risky or creative options are sacrificed while the safe and reliable choices are pushed forward.  mergers budgets

The reasons why mergers fail is the same reason they had hope for success in the beginning. The #1 reason for mergers is the belief that ‘we can do a better job with the brand than you can’. The problem is the need for merger synergies gets in the way of the needed turnaround. The new owners do not know the details needed, so most of their ideas seem naïve and elementary. The needed investment gets put off until the merger is paid off. The brand continues to hemorrhage and the new owners do not seem emotionally invested in the brand’s success. The other main reason is an ego-driven excitement of “Imagine the power of us together”. I am sure that is going through the halls of Kraft-Heinz as they drooled over Unilever. Sure, there are synergies in manufacturing or at the retail stores. But, these huge mega-corporation usually just take two smart and nimble organizations and turn them into a slow, clumsy and risk-averse bureaucracy. A ‘new win’ in the mega-corporation feels like after 19 meetings, they have finally agreed to use your ‘expense form’. Yeah!

My advice to brands considering a merger: focus on growing your own brands, choose the smartest consumer driven strategies and then execute with intelligence and passion. Sounds like marketing 101? Yes it is. You should just stay focused on growing your own business instead of drooling over others.

The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, until you buy the brand and then slowly start to destroy it.

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on How to create beloved brands, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

How to manage your B2B brand

Too many people think that brand management matters most to a consumer brand, and they under-estimate the value of marketing for B2B brands. And many of these people are running B2B brands. They treat marketing as a support function, hiring a low-cost marketing coordinators to support their sales team, and do basic packaging for new launches and run a few basic trade magazines.

B2B marketing is not just about selling products, but about building and selling your brand’s reputation. The role of a B2B brand is to create unique idea for your brand, perceived in the minds and hearts of your customer, consistently delivered by the experience, creating a bond, power and profit beyond what the product itself could achieve. Too many B2B companies believe they just SELL PRODUCTS. However, you should be building and managing your reputation of your brand. Whereas basic products and services solve small problems, I like to think that a brand beats down the enemy that your customer faces every day. For instance, FedEx fights the enemy of “business moving too slowly” while IBM fights “unsolvable problems” for their customers. What is your customer’s enemy that you can solve for them?

The more loved a brand is by its customers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be. With a connected brand, it helps to warm up sales leads–many times they’ll already know your reputation before you call. A brand can connect with customers so that pure pricing becomes less of a factor. If the customer is satisfied and connected on one piece of business, they’ll look to you to solve other problems for them.

Start with a Big Idea

The best brands use a Big Idea to help explain themselves in 7 seconds, and use that Big Idea to help extrapolate that same brand story into 60 seconds or even 30 minutes, depending on the situation. In a crowded branded marketplace, Big Ideas help simplify your brand message so it’s easily understood and remembered, own-able in the customers’ mind and heart and motivating enough to change consumer beliefs and behavior. That big idea should transform your brand message into a brand reputation.

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Below is the tool we use to figure out a brand’s Big Idea which revolves around five areas that help define the brand: 1) Brand’s character 2) Products and Services the brand provides 3) Internal Beacons that people internally rally around when thinking about the brand and 4) Consumer reputation of the Brand and 5) the role of the brand in connecting with consumers. How we use this tool is we normally brainstorm 3-4 words in each of the four distinct sections and turn create sentences for each. Then looking collectively, we begin to frame the brand’s Big Idea with a few words or a phrase to which the brand can stand behind. The tool works! 

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Once you have your Big Idea, you should then use it to frame the 5 different connectors needed to set up a very strong bond between your brand and your customers.

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Build your brand around a big idea that’s simple to understand and big enough to create a lasting impression with consumers. Create a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, based on being better, different or cheaper. Use your brand story to motivate customers to think, feel or act, while beginning to own a reputation in the mind and hearts of consumers. You need a fundamentally sound product, with innovation that keeps your brand at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise. The purchase  moment is where customers move through the purchase cycle and use channels, messaging, processes to make the final decision. Turn the usage of your product into an experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of their work life so that your customers always turn to you first.

Whereas B2B brands currently treat marketing as a support function, once you have your big idea you can see how for a B2B brand, that the idea should drive every part of your organization and that your brand’s experience will be supported by the culture, people and operations which then transforms that idea into a brand reputation. Below you can see how that Big Idea should be a beacon for your top-to-top leadership, your sales team, the problem solvers, customer service team and the experience delivery team.

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Everyone in your organization must be saying the same message. For a B2B brand, marketing’s role is to make sure that the external and internal story are given equal importance so that everyone in your organization must be communicating and delivering the same big idea to customers that they see in trade magazines, at trade shows or in the sales materials.

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Like any brand, there are really only four choices: you can be better, different, cheaper or else not around for very long. For B2B, when your product is a commodity, you have to find a way to use service levels as a way to find your point of difference. When you start to treat your own brand like a commodity or believe that you are, that’s when you’re in trouble. What you want to do is use that Big Idea to create an internal culture and use that culture to build your brand’s reputation as the way to help separate you in the marketplace. As you build your culture, you’ll see that you can begin to use culture as a way to stand out and then you’ll evolve to where you see culture becomes the backbone that delivers the brand experience. At the ideal stage where you become a beloved brand you see that culture and brand become one as your own people become the most outspoken fans of the brand. 

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Your brand is your reputation and it can never be a commodity

Click below on the Powerpoint version of the B2B Brand Workshop we run for clients.

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

GR bio Jun 2016.001

 

In advertising, what comes first: the MEDIA choice or the CREATIVE idea?

Of course the consumer always comes first. However, as you begin the advertising process, Brand Leaders need to figure out whether the creative determines the media choice you make or the media choice helps frame the creative. When I started in marketing, way back in the mid 90s, life was a little simpler because the media and the creative were both under one agency roof. The meetings were simple: you’d see your various TV script options, give some feedback and then the room would go silent and the account person would say “now let’s look at the media plan” and the media person would take you through a 15 page presentation on where else the idea of your TV script could go. You would see some magazine, OOH and even some sampling idea. Back then, there was no internet advertising yet.

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Then one day, our media folks from our agency were spun off, had a new name, moved offices and had a new President. It now just meant we had two presentations and the Brand Leader now had to make sense of things and try to piece it together. About a year into that new relationship, I was sitting there confused and asked the question: “So what comes first, the media choice or the creative idea?” The room went silent for about 5 minutes. Then of course both sides talked over each other, both saying it was them that came first.  

All Marketing Execution has to do something to the brand–getting the consumer to think, act or feel differently about your brand. Media is an investment against your strategy and creative is an expression of your strategy. Both media and creative are only useful if they connect with consumers. Great advertising must connect through very insightful creative that expresses the brand’s positioning and told in a way that matters to those who care the most. Great advertising must be placed within the consumers’ life where it will capture their attention and motivate them in the expressed desired way to meet the strategy. So really, the consumer comes first and strategy comes second. Media and creative need to work to jointly capture the consumer and deliver the strategy.  

With separate agencies, the problem now rests with Brand Leaders to figure it out. While one could theoretically argue that if the Creative Idea of the advertising is so big, it should work in every medium. That’s just not always true in reality. Some ideas just work better in certain mediums. Yet the media people could also theoretically argue that if you go for the most efficient and effective media option, the media will do the work for you. That’s also not true. The best overall advertising should work focus on what has the most impact and what has the highest efficiency.  

Here’s a solution for Brand Leaders 

The three questions you always need to keep in your head at all times: 1) where is your consumer 2) where is your brand and 3) how does the creative idea work? 

1.  Where is your consumer?

You should really understand who your consumer is, and who they are not. You need to make sure you understand the insights about them, because it’s those insights within your creative that allow you to connect with them. They’ll say “they get me”. You should always be mapping out a day in the life of your consumer. Get in their shoes and say “what does my consumer’s day look like and how will my message fit or interrupt their life?” Take a “be where they are approach” to your media. 

2.  Where is the Brand?

First thing you have to do is consider where your brand is on the Brand Love Curve where brands go from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and all the way to Beloved. At INDIFFERENT, it’s about announcement style such as mass media, LIKE IT becomes about separating yourself from the competition while LOVE IT and BELOVED you’ll start to see the growing importance of event marketing to core users or social media as a badge of honor to share with others.

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3.  How does the Creative work? (The ABC’S)

The best advertising should draw ATTENTION, be about the BRAND, COMMUNICATE the main message and STICK in the consumers head long beyond the ad.

  • Attention: You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising. Consumers see 7,000 brand messages per day, and will likely only engage in a few. If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
  • Branding: Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best. Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumers view of the brand. It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits to the climax of the ad.
  • Communication: Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
  • Stickiness: Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time. In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own. Brands have exist in the minds of the consumer. 
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In the reality of advertising, not every ad execution will be able to do all four of the ABC’S.  When I’m in the creative room, I try to think about which of the two ABC’S are the most critical to my strategy. If it is a new product, I want all four, but I have to have: Attention and Communication. If the brand is in a competitive battle I have to have Brand and Communication.  If the brand is a leader and beloved, I need to make sure the advertising is about the Brand and that it Sticks.   

What I recommend you do:

In a sense, you have to work the creative and media together. But that’s impossible. So what I do is hold off on making any media decisions until you see the creative idea and how it is expressed in a few media options. With all the potential media options now available, I ask for 3 executions for each creative option:

        1. Video version
        2. Billboard 
        3. Long Copy Print

Sounds simple, but here’s the logic. With those 3, I can now imagine how the advertising might work across all possible media options. 

  • The “Video” allows me to imagine how the creative would work for traditional 30-second TV ad, a 60-second movie theatre ad, 2 or 3 minute viral video for sharing or even a video you could put on a website.
  • The “Billboard” allows me to imagine how it would work with traditional media options such as out-of-home billboard, bus shelter, in-store poster, packaging copy and the back cover of a magazine.  Or if we want to look at digital, it could be a digital billboard, Facebook photo, website cover.
  • The “Long Print” allows me to imagine what how it might work with a print ad, side panel of packaging, brochures, public relations story-line,  social media feed or even a blog on your website.  

With 3 simple asks against each creative idea, it covers off most of the traditional media options, even covering the digital media. So now as the Brand Leader goes to their Media Agency, they will know how the creative idea would work against any of their recommendations. 

Obviously, we always recommend that you focus. So we’ll likely recommend a lead traditional media and a lead digital and lead social option. You need to make the most out of your limited resources of dollars, time, people and partnerships. However, if we want a creative idea to last 5 years, seeing it work across this many media options gives me a comfort that should I need that option, I know the creative idea will work.

The media math from a client’s view

While the media agency owns the media math that blows your mind, here is some simple client side media math. As clients, we have to make the most of our budgets. 

  • Your production budget should be around 5-10% of your overall advertising plan. If you have small budgets, that may creep up to 20%, but that’s it. Every time you do a new piece of creative, the production dollars go up and the media dollars go down. I’d recommend you focus on one main traditional media and have only one secondary option. This keeps your spend focused. 
  • When it comes to social media, keep in mind there is no free media options. Instead of financial capital, you are now exhausting people capital. Just like the traditional options, I would recommend one lead social media and one secondary focus. Do not try to be all things to all people.  
  • The other reason to focus is to ensure you do great executions and not just “ok”.  Pick the media that maximizes the power of the creative. Don’t exhaust the team by spreading them against too many activities.   
  • Allow 80 to 90% of your media spend be on the highly effective highly efficient media plan. That means 10-20% of your media spend can now go against high IMPACT creative ideas that you know will break through.  

Work with both the creative and media at the same time, figuring out what gives the highest return on your investment

 

To see a training presentation on getting Better Marketing Execution: 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the Nicoderm ad based on the consumer insight:

 

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

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. To learn more about Marketing, continue to visit beloved-brands.com where you will have access to stories on everything connected to brand management. 

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

Barbie faced major declines

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

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

 

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

 

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

Here are five lessons for Brand Turnarounds

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

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

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept.

custom_business_card_pile_15837We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

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

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

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Align the 5 consumer touch-points to build consumer connectivity and brand love

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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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 (below) where we map out the target definition, product features, rational benefits and emotional benefits. To read more, click on this hyperlink: How to write a brand positioning statement

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

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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 staying within the perimeters of the brand strategy. New products have to meet consumer needs and many times creating a consumer need they didn’t even know they had. 

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

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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.

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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.

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

 

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

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept.

custom_business_card_pile_15837We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

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

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

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Before you fire your Agency…

Article that we wrote for Marketing Magazine Marketing Magazine link

firedThey say clients get the work they deserve. If you knew being a better client would get you better advertising, could you show up better? Would you actually show up better? There’s a reason why there are so many agency reviews: clients can’t really fire themselves. However, if you fire your current agency and then you don’t show up better to the new agency, they will be doomed to fail from the start. And the cycle will continue.

The role of the client matters.

I have seen so-so agencies make great work for an amazing client. I have also seen the best agencies fail dramatically for a bad client. My conclusion: The client matters more than anyone else, as they hold the power in either enabling or restricting impactful advertising from happening.

I have always reminded myself that we never really do anything. We don’t make the product, sell the product or create the ads. Yet, we touch everything and we make every decision. Our greatness has to come from leading the experts we engage, so that they reach for their own greatness and apply it on our brand. Great clients communicate their desires with passion to inspire their agency; they hold everyone accountable to the strategy and stay open to explore new solutions through creativity. Great clients are wiling to stake their reputation on great work.

Here’s how to show up better as a client:

  • Narrow your focus with a tight target: Some brand leaders want options to help make decisions. The problem is that clients write such a wide creative brief that it creates room for strategic options, when really the brand leader just wanted creative options. Instead, have one main message and one objective. Keep your list of mandatories to a bare minimum. Do your strategic homework before you write the brief. Start with the consumer and bring their story to life using insights that will make consumers say, “That’s me.” Knowing you have the right strategy will give you more conviction to decide on the right creative expression of that strategy. The smaller the brief, the bigger the ideas.
  • Allow creativity to unfold: 7e11158d-971e-4d29-80fa-cb27b96f0ebe-originalWhen you write a tangled weave of mandatories in the brief that almost writes the ad itself, the agency feels trapped and unable to do anything surprising or spectacular. Don’t use every meeting to steer towards the type of advertising you want to see, while being outspoken against the type of work you don’t want to see. Let the agency take charge of writing the brief. You can still debate every word, always knowing if you hold the power of decision, you don’t need to hold the pen as well. In meetings, show you are open to new solutions. It is okay to know exactly what you want, but you should never know until the moment you see it. Think of advertising like the perfect gift you never thought to buy yourself. As the leader, you always hold the final power of the decision. You will be even more powerful if you never have to use it.
  • Lead with passion: There is no mathematical pathway to choosing the best advertising based on a winning score. Great advertising has to balance the art and science, using both your creative instincts and strategic mind. You need to, be willing to fight to make the best work happen and put all of your energy into making the work spectacular. Do not use the logic of research to choose your path, but to confirm the choice you are dying to make.

Being a better client is something you can learn. Advertising takes experience, practice, leadership and a willingness to adjust. Ask for advice. Watch others who are great. Never give your agency new solutions, just give them new problems. Inspire greatness from your agency; yet never be afraid to challenge them for better work. They would prefer to be pushed rather than held back. Be your agency’s favourite client, so the agency team wants to work on your brand, not just because they were assigned to work on your business. Be the champion who fights for great work even if you have to fight with your boss.

Once you show up better, you might find your agency shows up better. Together, you will make amazing work.

 

Do you want to realize your full potential in Brand Management?  We can help you.

Read more on how to utilize our Brand Leadership Learning Center where you will receive training in all aspects of marketing whether that’s strategic thinking, brand plans, creative briefs, brand positioning, analytical skills or how to judge advertising.  We can customize a program that is right for you or your team.  We can work in person, over the phone or through Skype.  Ask us how we can help you

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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New Axe ad campaign trying to be the “Dove” brand for young men

71hRmSv1NvL._SL1500_The Axe consumer has grown up and now Axe wants to grow up with that consumer. When my son was 13, he started using the Axe brand. One day, I was walking past him and he asked if I wanted a spray.  I said “No, I don’t want to smell like a 13-year-old”. My son is now in University now and uses “The One” by Dolce and Gabana. Even he doesn’t want to smell like a 13-year-old. And now, Axe is showing they no longer want to be the brand for 13-year-olds. They want to grow up.

Axe has released an Ad campaign that feels a bit like Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign. (Axe and Dove are both owned by Unilever) Unilever does a fantastic job in bringing consumer insights into their work. “Masculinity today is going through seismic changes. More than ever, guys are rejecting rigid male stereotypes,” says Matthew McCarthy, senior director of Axe and men’s grooming at Unilever. “We’ve been part of guys’ lives for decades, and Axe champions real guys and the unique traits that make them attractive to the world around them. In recent years, Internet searches by men on hair tips eclipsed female in volume. Men are curious about experimenting and trying different things and are spending more time in front of the mirror. It’s much more acceptable.”

The new Axe message is “you don’t have to be perfect, just be your best self”. The ad shows various iterations of the new modern man from brainiacs to one with a big nose, from protestors to dancing in heels or dancing in a wheel chair. Whoever you are, Axe wants you to feel good about yourself and “Find your magic”. 

The challenge for Axe is that it will take time to transform. They will have to stand by their convictions should sales slip. The Axe brand did such a great job in creating that edgy, hilarious, egomaniac, sexy teenage male positioning, the reputation of Axe is deeply engrained in our minds. Here’s the type of Ad we are normally used to seeing from Axe.

This is a good start for Axe brand. It will take time to transform the brand. My hope is they they don’t give up quickly. 

At Beloved Brands, we lead workshops on Marketing Execution that can help your brand team explore their role as a leader in the process, how to write a strategic brief, how to judge and make decisions on marketing execution and then how to give feedback to the agencies. Here’s the powerpoint file:

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 at416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrandsPositioning 2016.081

Coke’s new Ad campaign has more fizzle than sizzle

coke-taste-the-feeling-1I have been impressed with Coke’s Marketing execution the past couple of years. I love the Coke Freestyle machines where you can customize your own drink from up to 100 options. And I have to admit loving the names on the bottle, even though I had my doubts in the beginning. All that great stuff, and yet the sales have been sluggish for the past 15 months. It’s not the activity that is at fault. It’s just that people want healthier options and Coke is now fighting against that major consumer movement away from Sugary or Aspartame drinks. Sugary cereals are going through the same crisis. But since Coke can’t “fix” the health trend, they may as well try to fix the activities–even if it’s not broken. 

With the earnings report showing that Coke’s revenue has fallen for the past 3 straight quarters, I can only imagine the CEO walking down the hall to find the CMO and say “we need your Advertising to sell more product”. 

At Beloved Brands, we believe that Advertising can only move one body part at a time: the head, the feet, the heart or the soul.Creative Brief 2016 Extract.001

Here’s a great example of a Coke ad idea called “Remove labels this Ramadan” that really touches the consumer’s soul. Even with 19 Million views, it likely didn’t sell a lot of Coke.

To me, an Advertising idea is like a magnet. When it gets too far away from the brand, it no longer moves the brand. The “share happiness” campaign was a huge umbrella idea, but likely so huge, the one thing it didn’t do is move product. 

Today, Coke announced two moves in rolling out their new “Taste the Feeling” advertising campaign. First, you will see in the work that they are clearly linking life moments with drinking Coke. Meaning the creative team was told: “we have to SELL MORE PRODUCT”. Or as I would say, the ads have to move feet.  Second, they announced they would have ONE Master Brand creative idea for all 3 Coke products, red Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero.

Here is the main spot Coke launched today, appropriately called Anthem.

I would say 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. It has a lot of product shots, but not really the connectivity needed to move product. And I barely even noticed any Diet Coke or Coke Zero. 

To evaluate advertising, we use something we call the ABC’S, which stands for Attention, Branding, Communication and Stickiness. I’d say these score low on attention, moderate on branding, modest on communication and pretty low on stickiness. These type of spots that show a lot of consumer moments to a song usually end up as wallpaper that falls into the background of our multi-tasking lifestyle. There’s no real compelling story here.Marketing Execution 2016.055

Here’s another TV ad called “What is Coke for?”

Again, a bit generic. No emotional pull. Lots of Coke fizzle. And hard to find the Diet Coke or Coke Zero. 

The print does a better job in capturing emotion than the TV, showing how Coke fits in to various moments of your life. 

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Here’s a challenge to Coke, if you are going to name your new spot “Anthem”. make sure it is as epic as this 1971 TV ad: 

Do you think this new campaign will increase Coke’s revenue?

Here’s a workshop we run on how to get better Marketing Execution. In this workshop, we go through how to come up with an Executional brief, based on both positioning and strategy, we take you through how to judge the work and how to provide motivating feedback to your agencies.

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

BBI ads for 2015.011We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911Positioning 2016.081

Six principles of good analytical thinking for Brand Leaders

For Brand Leaders to keep moving up, you need to be good at all parts of marketing–skills, behaviors and experiences. As you manage your career, try to close gaps in each. The key skills you include brand analytics, strategic thinking, brand planning, decision-making and execution. One of the biggest skill gaps I see is the ability to do deep dive analytics and turn it into an analytical story that can set up decisions. From what I see, most people either don’t know how to dig in or when they dig in, they struggle to tell the story from the mounds of data they have gathered.

To help challenge your thinking, here are “Six principles of good analytical thinking for Brand Leaders”

Analytics 2016.011Principle #1: Use facts to support opinions or else what you say comes across as an empty opinion that leaves a room divided.



One tool I use is the “5 Questions tool” where you start with your hypothesis and then ask “so what does that mean” 5 times, each time helping analysis move from unsubstantiated opinion to action-able insight.

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The benefit of this type of tool is it helps avoiding getting caught off guard when your senior management starts asking questions. Once you do that, I like to organize my thinking, like a newspaper (if those still exist) with a Headline, Opinion and 2-3 data points.Analytics 2016.014

Principle #2: Absolute numbers by themselves are useless. Always find comparisons.






Only when given a relative nature to something important do you find the data break that tells a story. Is 50 degrees Fahrenheit warm or cold? If it’s Ottawa Canada and it’s December 24th it HOT and it is front page news. If it’s Los Angeles on June 5th, it is COLD and front page news.

Back in the early 1900s, there was a famous baseball player whose name was Frank “Home Run” Baker. Yet, oddly enough, the most Home Runs he ever hit in a year was 12. You might think his name is sarcastic or wonder how the heck can he get the nickname “Home Run”. Because in a relative dead ball era of baseball, he won the home run crown four consecutive seasons starting in 1911 with 11, 10, 12 and 9 home runs.  Yes Babe Ruth would hit 54 and 60 home runs less than 10 years later but the ball had changed. The absolute number of home runs does not matter–because relatively speaking, Frank Baker was the best home run hitter of his generation and deserves to be called “Home Run” Baker.

Only when given a relative nature to something important do you find the data break that tells a story. You have to ground the data with a comparison, whether that’s versus prior periods, competitors, norms or the category. Every time you talk about a number, you have to talk about in relative terms—comparing it to something that is grounded: vs last year, vs last month, vs another brand, vs norm or vs England’s share. Is it up down, or flat? Never give a number without a relative nature—or your listener will not have a clue.Analytics 2016.016

Principle #3: The analytical story comes to life when you see a break in the data.




Comparative indexes and cross tabulations can really bring out the data breaks and gaps that can really tell a story. Use the “so what” technique to dig around and twist the data in unique ways until you find the point in which the data actually breaks and clear meaningful differences start to show. This is where the trend is exposed and you can draw a conclusion.

Example of finding data breaks

  • Distribution overall held at 82% throughout the year. At the macro level, it looks like there is no issue at distribution at all)
    Distribution on 16 count fell only a little bit over the year going from 74% to 71%. Even at one layer down—the count size—there’s still very little break in the data
  • Distribution on 16 count at Convenience stores went from 84% to 38% in the last 2 months. As we are starting to twist the data, it shows a dramatic and quick drop at the Convenience channel.  As you start to dig around you might find out that the biggest Convenience Customer, 7-11, delisted the brand recently.

Principle #4: Like an Old School Reporter, two source of data help frame the story.

Avoid taking one piece of data and making it the basis of your entire brand strategy. Make sure it’s a real trend. Dig around until you can find a convergence of data that leads to an answer. Look to find 2-3 facts that start to tell a story, and allows you to draw a conclusion. The good pure logic in a philosophical argument they teach you is “premise, premise conclusion” so if you see one trend line, look for a second before drawing a conclusion.

Principle #5: Deep analysis requires slower thinking time so you don’t misjudge situation.

The best Brand Leaders know when to be a strategic thinker and when to be an action thinker. Strategic thinkers see “what if” questions before seeing solutions, mapping out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They take time to reflect and plan before acting, helping you move in a focused efficient fashion. They think slowly, logically, always needing options, but if go too slow, you will miss the opportunity window.

A good tool to get you thinking in terms of questions: separate your analysis into 5 buckets:

  1. What do we know? This should be fact based and you know it for sure.
  2. What do we assume? Your educated/knowledge based conclusion that helps us bridge between fact, and speculation.
  3. What we think? Based on facts, and assumptions, you should be able to say what we think will happen.
  4. What do we need to find out? There could be unknowns still.
  5. What are we going to do? It’s the action that comes out of this thinking.

Analytics 2016.026One of the best analysis you can do is the simple “where are we” page. It has 5 simple questions that make you think:

  1. Where are we?
  2. Why are we here?
  3. Where could we be?
  4. How can we get there?
  5. What do we need to do to get there?

Before you start your planning process, take a few hours to sit down at your desk and outline a few points for each point. You will start to see how the overall brand plan flows. These 5 questions start to map out your overall analysis, the key issues, the vision, strategy and tactics. 

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Principle #6: Use tools that can help organize and force deep dive thinking in key areas.

A Force Field analysis is best served for those brands in a sustaining position where marketing plays the role of driving innovation and creativity within a box. Always keep in mind that Drivers and Inhibitors are happening now. You can see the impact in the current year. Anything in the future gets moved down to Opportunities and Threats which are not happening but could happen. Invariably, people mix this up and things that could happen move up when they really shouldn’t.

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The best thing about the force field is you can easily take it into an action plan, because you want to keep the drivers going and overcome the inhibitors Then take advantage of the opportunities and minimize or eliminate any serious threats. It’s a great simple management tool.

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Good analytics get you to the point of “So what do you think”. From there, you will have to be a good decision-maker.

Here is our workshop on leading a deep dive business review including good analytical principles, assessing health and wealth of the brand, turning facts into insight, helping to set up strategic choices and turning the analytics into projections and analytical stories.

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

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