Tag: social media

5 key areas Brand Managers should focus on to reach their full potential

After 20 years of CPG marketing, I have hired so many potentially great marketers–who were eager for success, brilliant, hard-working and dedicated. But in reality, about 50% of Assistant Brand Managers get promoted to Brand Manager and less than 20% of Brand Managers make it to the Director level. I’ve given it a lot of thought over the years and here is my view on what makes great Brand Managers, great enough for them to get promoted to the next level.  

What separates good from great at any level in Marketing:

Before we get into the specific Brand Manager level, here are the expected behaviors in Marketing at any level.

  • Hit the deadlines: Don’t look out of control or sloppy. We have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other.
  • Know your business: Don’t get caught off-guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.
  • Open communication: No surprises. Keep everyone aware of what’s going on. Present upwards with an action plan of what to do with it.  
  • Listen and decide: While it’s crucial that we seek to understand, it’s equally important that we give direction or push towards the end path.
  • We must get better: When we don’t know something, speak in an “asking way”, but when we know, speak in a “telling way”.
  • We control our destiny: We run the brands, they do not run us. Be slightly ahead of the game, not chasing your work to completion.
  • Regular feedback for growth: You should always take feedback, good or bad, as a lesson for you. Not a personal attack or setback.

And when it comes to being a leader and managing others, here are the biggest factors you should look at:

  • Hold your team to a consistently high standard of work in strategic thinking, planning, execution in the market. Consistency in the Quality of marketing outputs: Advertising/Media, Innovation/New Products and In-store/Promotion
  • People Leadership: your team knows the team vision and is consistently motivated by where you want to go. Seen as actively interested in helping your team to manage their careers.
  • Processes: you organize, challenge and manage the processes so your team can execute. Your team gets things done on time. Deadlines, on budget, on forecast.
  • Coaching: Teach, guide and direct your team members for higher performance. Training and Development: provides on-going skills development to make the team better. Motivation and Recognition: you are seen to actively provide positive commentary to team players, one on one and in public.
  • Consistent Communication: Both written and spoken, big and small. Easily approachable and makes time to wander. Actively Listens to Team: asks the big strategic questions, not the small tactical details
  • Leadership during times of pressure: results, ambiguity, change and deadlines.

Slide1To be a great Brand Manager, here are the 5 key areas you should focus on:

1. A great Brand Manager takes ownership of the brand

  • Many BMs struggle with the transition from being the helper to being the owner. As you move into the job, you have to get away from the idea of having someone hand you a project list. Not only do you have to make the project list, you have to come up with the strategies from which the projects fall out of.
  • A great Brand Manager talks in ideas in a telling sense, rather than an asking sense. It’s great to be asking questions as feelers, but realize that most people are going to be looking to you for decisions. They’ll be recommending you’ll be deciding.
  • When managing upwards be careful of asking questions—try to stick to solutions. You just gave up your ownership. Your director wants you to tell them what to do, and debate from there. 

2. A great Brand Manager provides a vision with strategies that match up

  • Bring a vision to the brand. Push yourself to a well-articulated 5-10 year brand vision. But a vision can be as simple as a rallying cry for the team. But you have to let everyone know where you want to go.
  • The strategy that matches up to the vision becomes the road map for how to get there. As the brand owner, you become the steward of the vision and strategy. Everything that is off strategy has to be rejected.
  • Communication of strategy is a key skill. Learn to think in terms of strategic pillars, with 3 different areas to help achieve your overall strategy. Having pillars constantly grounds you strategically, and is an easy way for communicating with the various functions. Each function may only have 1 strategic pillar but seeing how it all fits in is motivating.

3. A great Brand Manager spends the effort to make their ABM as good as can be.

  • Most BMs struggle with their first five direct reports. The key is to keep self evaluating and looking for ways to improve with each report.
  • Most BMs struggle to shift from “do-er” to “coach. They think they can do it faster, so they may as well do it. They just become the “super ABM”.
  • Many BMs fail to share the spot light, so it becomes hard to showcase the ABM. But the work of your ABM reflects 100% of how good of a manager you are.
  • ABMs need feedback to get better—both the good and bad. I see to many BMs not giving enough feedback. And so many afraid of “going negative” so the ABM is left in the dark or left thinking they are doing a good job.
  • Great BMs take the time to teach up front, give the ABM some room to try it out and then give hands-on feedback in real-time. Use weekly meetings to give both positive feedback and address gaps.
  • Brand Mangers should do QUARTERLY sit down performance reviews with their ABMs, who have the capacity to learn faster than annual reviews allows for.

4. A great Brand Manager gets what they want and need.

  • The organization is filled with groups, layers, external agencies, with everyone carrying a different set of goals and motivations. You can see how the organization works and appreciating what are are the motivations of various key stakeholders. You then use that knowledge to begin to work the system.
  • You are starting to see key subject matter experts giving you their best. You understand their personal motivations and find a way to tap into those motivations as a way to ask people for their best. It might be an odd step, but from my experience a really motivating step. Very few people ask for “your best”.

5. A great Brand Manager can handle pressure: ambiguity, results, relationship and time pressure.  

  • Ambiguity is one of the hardest pressures. As a leader, patience and composure help you sort through the issues. The consequences of not remaining composed are a scared team and choosing quick decisions with bad results.
  • If the Results don’t come in, it can be frustrating. Reach for your logic as you re-group. Force yourself to course correct, rather then continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat. Challenge team to “this is when we are needed”
  • Relationships. Be pro-active in making the first move to build a relationship. Try to figure out what motivates and what annoys the person. Understand and reach for common ground, which most times is not that far away.
  • Time Pressure. It’s similar to the ambiguity. Be organized, disciplined and work the system so it doesn’t get in your way. Be calm, so you continue to make the right decisions. Use time to your advantage.

Conversely, here are the 10 factors that are career limiting for Brand Managers

Conversely, here are the 10 factors that are career limiting for Brand Managers

  1. You struggle to make decisions
  2. You are not analytical enough
  3. You can’t get along
  4. Not good with Ambiguity
  5. Too slow and too stiff
  6. You’re a bad people manager
  7. Poor communicators, with manager, senior management or partners
  8. Never trust or follow your instincts
  9. You can’t think strategically and almost equally important, you can’t write strategically
  10. You fail to run the brand, you let the brand run you. 

Always challenge yourself to get better. You run your career and control your personal brand.

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


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How to lay out your 5-year brand strategic plan on one page

The same leaders who use the phrase: “Let’s all get on the same page”, then send out 110 slide Powerpoint presentations. We take it serious enough to create a Brand Strategy Roadmap that you can use to frame the next 5 years of your brand strategy, and fit it on one page. This way,  you really can get everyone on the same page.  

The master brand strategy roadmap

Having the brand road map on one page can help align everyone that works on a brand. This is especially useful when managing a Branded House or Master Brand where there are various people in your organization that each run a small part of the brand. The road map helps guide everyone and keep them aligned.

Here’s the one I use that has all the key elements that help define the brand


Start with the Brand’s Big Idea

Brand’s Big Idea: A Beloved Brand is an idea that’s worth Loving. As brands become more loved, they go beyond being just a product and they become an idea that fulfills consumers’ emotional needs in the consumers life. Below is the Tool I use to figure out a Brand’s Big Idea revolves around four areas that help define the Brand 1) Brand’s personality 2) Products and Services the brand provides 3) Internal Beacons that people internally rally around when thinking about the brand and 4) Consumer Views of the Brand. What we normally do is brainstorm 3-4 words in each of the four section and then looking collectively begin to frame the Brand’s Big Idea with a few words or a phrase to which the brand can stand behind.


The five connectors with the consumer: Under the Brand Idea are 5 Sources of Connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including 1) the brand promise 2) the strategic choices you make 3) the brand’s ability to tell their story 4) the freshness of the product or service and 5) the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you.Slide1

As an example Apple’s Big Idea is about “taking the complexity and make everything simple enough, so that everyone will be part of the future”. Accordingly, everything in the organization should line up to delivering a simple experience whether that’s the day they turn on the product, installing an App on an iPhone or when they show up at the store to ask questions from the Genius Bar.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 consumers.Slide2

Brand values should come from the Big Idea, and act as guideposts to ensure that the behavior of everyone in the organization is set to deliver upon the Brand’s promise. How do you want your people to show up? What type of service do you want? How much emphasis on innovation? What type of people do you want to hire? What behavior should be rewarded and what behavior is off-side. Having the right Brand Values will help you answer these questions. The Brand Values become an extension of what the Brand Leader wants the brand to stand for. To read more this subject read the following: Brand = Culture

Worksheet Strategy Summary

The 5 year road map should combine the elements of a long range brand plan with the mapping of the brand’s big idea. We recommend you do up a worksheet summary, that allows your team to brainstorm and continue to modify before you go the final road map.Slide1


With this format, having it all on one page forces focus and allows you to keep a tight control over those that will be working under the Master Brand.

  • Vision: What do you want your brand to be in the next 5-10 years? Vision gives everyone on the brand a clear direction, it should be measurable (quantitative) and motivating (qualitative). It should push you so much that it scares you a little, but excites you a lot.
  • Purpose: Why does your brand exist? Keep asking yourself why you do this, to find the personal motivation hidden in the brand. Articulating your purpose can be a very powerful way to connect with both employees and consumers, giving your brand a soul.
  • Goals: What do you need to achieve? Specific measures of brand health and wealth, related to consumer/customer behavioral changes, metrics of key programs, performance targets or milestones on the pathway to the vision. It’s the brand scoreboard.
  • Financial Forecasts: sales, A&P spending, margins, profits, market share.
  • Key Issues: What is getting the way from achieving your vision/goals? Deep analysis highlights what’s driving and holding brand back, as well as future risks and untapped opportunities. Issues are asked as a question to provide the problem to which strategies become the solution.
  • Strategies: How can we get there? Strategies are the “How” you will win the market. Choices based on market opportunities, using consumers, competitors or situational. Strategies should have a pin-pointed focus providing a breakthrough on the pathway to the brand vision.
  • Tactics: What do we need to do to execute the strategy? Framed completely by strategy, tactical choices deploy your limited resources against brand projects in the most efficient way to drive a high ROI.
  • Marketing Budget to achieve Results: broken out by trade spend, communication, consumer promo, new products, research.

Putting the plan and big idea togther to create the 5 year road map

How it all comes together is you take the summary elements of the brand plan and the big idea brand map together into the Brand Strategy Roadmap.



Get everyone on One Page with a Brand Strategy Roadmap that everyone can follow


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


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How to re-position your brand by transforming the perception of your competitor’s strength into a weakness

Slide1When you’re struggling, the obvious answer marketers look to is to re-position your brand. Have you tried a strategy where you re-position your main competitor as a way to re-position your own brand?  

Find your brand’s distinction

At Beloved Brands, we believe in using positioning as a way to finding Your Uniqueness.  We believe that brands have only four choices: they are either better, different, cheaper, or not around for very long. The key is to find a unique selling proposition for your brand. You don’t always need to find a rational point of difference as long as there is room to be emotionally unique. It all starts by mapping out everything that the consumer needs, then plotting that (using venn diagram in the chart below) against everything your competitor does best and against what you do best. We define the winning zone as the intersection of what your consumer wants and what you do best. The risky zone is where it’s a relative tie between you and your competitor, which we believe the winner will be those who win through speed, innovation or emotional connection. Brands should avoid the losing zone where you try to take on your competitor in the area where they can beat you. And finally, the dumb zone is where the consumer doesn’t care at all–outside of what consumers want.Slide04

When you a using competitive positioning stance (using the two charts below) what you want to do is focus on the area where you are better than your competitor and then extrapolate that feature’s importance with consumers in order to make what you do seem even bigger. The hope is that by doing so, you can diminish the importance of what your competitor does best. 

In a highly competitive marketplace, where your brand needs re-positioning, you want to take it one step farther.  You might find a more innovative approach to re-position your brand by turning your competitor’s perceived strength into a weakness, making consumers re-think their current brand and creating a new problem for which your brand becomes the new solution to that problem. With this type of re-positioning, you are moving your competitor into the “dumb zone” outside of what consumers want, while setting your own brand up as the best solution.  


A great example of this type of thinking is in a highly commoditized salmon market. There are two types of salmon: pink and white. For years, consumers had became accustomed and accepting of tins of pink salmon in their grocery stores. In fact, it was really the only salmon on the market. But when the white salmon tried to sell their product into stores, consumers rejected it immediately as it didn’t fit with what they knew about canned salmon. The white salmon fisheries came up with a brilliant line to re-position the pink competition: “Guaranteed not to turn pink in the can!”  This is a great example of getting consumers to re-think their current brand, starting to wonder if their salmon was actually safe to eat. The pink salmon fisheries fought back with an equally brilliant line: “Guaranteed: No bleach used in processing!”

Case Study: The Pepsi Challenge

Back in the 1970s, Coke was such a dominant brand–with a strong bond with consumers.  Consumers loved the Coke taste, and all the emotions it evoked with the Coke heritage, americana feel and even Santa Claus. The Pepsi Challenge was a direct offensive attack on Coke–a dagger in their heart–attacking the taste of Coke. In blind taste tests, without the attachment of Coke brand name and all that went with it, people picked Pepsi, preferring the sweeter taste–serving to re-position Coke as the lesser tasting product.. The Pepsi challenge moved Pepsi up to a competitive share position even at times reaching #1. Coke was so dazed and confused they launched “New Coke” with a better taste. Finally, consumers took control of the situation and rejected New Coke, basically saying “it’s not the better taste we want, it’s the usual Coke taste and what goes along with all that is Coke that we want”.  New Coke was killed, and oddly through the process, Coke re-gained what they had lost through the Pepsi challenge. 

Historical: A look back at the iconic Pepsi Challenge from the 1970s (CNW Group/PEPSICO CANADA)

Historical: A look back at the iconic Pepsi Challenge from the 1970s (CNW Group/PEPSICO CANADA)

Case Study: Apple’s “I’m a Mac” 

Let’s face it, Apple is a cool, hip brand. It pushes a strong identification with everything young, up-to-the-minute and smart. The “I’m a Mac” campaign was brilliant in not only defining the Mac brand as smooth, confident and cool, but defining the PC brand as old, uptight and awkward. Even the two characters in the ad resembled the leaders of each organization with a nerdy Bill Gates look-alike, versus a cool hipster in Steve Jobs. At the height of this campaign I was in a crowded bar that went immediately silent when one of the “I’m a Mac” TV ads came on. Apple has done a great job in separating themselves from the competitor, whether it’s the white headphones on the iPod, the number of apps for iPhone and iPad or the cool sleek designs of the Mac. Not only that, the Apple store is a store just for Apple users.  Here are 10 hilarious ads from that “I’m a Mac” campaign. 

Case Study:  Avis “We try Harder”

Back in the 1960s, when Avis was struggling behind the clear market leader in Hertz, they created the “We try harder” campaign that openly said “we are #2, so we have to try harder” which turned the strength of Hertz #1 market share into a slight weakness, making consumers wonder if the #1 brand Hertz was resting on its laurels. They layered in reasons to believe saying they couldn’t’ afford to provide unwashed cars, low tire pressure and dirty ashtrays which made consumers start to wonder if Hertz did those things. 




A failed case study is the McDonald’s coffee launch, which seems we are close to saying it’s been a distraction for the McDonald’s brand who now faces 15 straight months of overall sales decline. When McDonald’s launched their coffee, they did so on price claiming that “Fourbucks was dumb” attacking a well-known high priced weakness and while a few came frustrated price shoppers came over the McDonald’s, it did nothing to change the perception of consumers, since they already knew McDonald’s would be cheaper than Starbucks. The actual disappointment for those new consumers is the high price of the specialty McDonald’s coffees were much cheaper. Back in the 1980s, Wendy’s “where’s the beef?” campaign attacked McDonald’s weakness around small burgers, but again, that was a generally accepted weakness for McDonald’s so it did very little to change perceptions. 

What I recommend for you is to start to think about how you can turn your competitors strength into a perceived weakness, which will then make the consumer think differently about their current brand and possibly put them into the zone where they are ready to explore new brands. 

Use re-positioning to open your consumer up to new thinking that the strength of their current brand might actually be a weakness


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


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How to write amazing Consumer Insights that will create a bond with your consumer

A client asked me to review their advertising creative brief and I was shocked by a few things: the brief was 8 pages long, while there were many features there were no benefits and while there were facts about the product, there were no consumer insights. If your team is struggling with advertising, the first place you should look is the creative brief. Sadly, it’s becoming a lost art and a lost skill for too many brand leaders. 

The role of consumer insights

At Beloved Brands, we believe the more loved a brand is by consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be. A brand is a unique idea, perceived in the minds and hearts of the consumer, consistently delivered by the experience, creating a bond, power and profit, beyond what the product itself could achieve. The role of Advertising is to create a bond with consumers, establish your brand’s positioning and drive a change in your consumers behavior that leads to higher sales, share and profit. We believe that any advertising must do something that changes the consumers’ behavior. And to change their behavior, you need to fully understand what they think today and what you want them to think, feel or do in the future. That’s where insights come into play. While you can paint the picture of the consumer by defining their profile, the insights bring it to life. Slide06

A good target not only decides who is in your target but who is not in your target. 

As you figure out where you are playing, defining who you are serving and who you aren’t serving helps provide focus. Ongoing measurement and adjusting should look at how well you are doing versus your target in terms of share, preference, purchase intention, brand funnel scores and panel data. As well you should track your research against the target and mass population. In terms of choosing target segments, you can break it out by demographics, psychographic, geographic and usage occasion or behavior.

Insights serve as a connection point between the brand and consumers  

The dictionary definition of the word Insight is “seeing below the surface”. To get deeper, keep asking yourself “so what does that mean for the consumer” until you have an “AHA moment. What are the beliefs, attitudes or behaviors that help explain how they think, feel or act in relationship to your brand or category. It’s not just data, trends and facts are insights. Facts are merely on the surface—so they miss out on the depth of the explanation of the underlying trends or feelings that caused the data. Insights help tell the story, paint the picture or inspire the creative juices. Insights need to be interesting or intriguing. My challenge is to think beyond just the specific category insights and think about Life Insights or even Societal Trends that could impact changing behaviour.

Insight is not something that consumers ever knew before. That would be knowledge not insight.  It’s not data or fact about your brand that you want to tell. Oddly enough, Insight is something that everyone already knows. Insight 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 one who felt like that”. That’s why we laugh when see the way that insight is projected with humor, why we get goose bumps when insight inspires us and why we cry when the insight comes alive through real-life drama.


Good insights get in the SHOES of your consumer and use their VOICE

When writing consumer insights, we recommend that you should start with “I” to get in the consumer’s shoes and that you should frame the insight by using quotes to use their voice. Too many brand leaders out there just jam facts into the brief, usually directly connected to their own brand and think that’s insightful. I love using this example: “in Brazil, people brush their teeth 4x a day compared to only 1.7x a day in North America–is that an insight?” And most times, people will say “yes, that’s an insight”. While it tells something, think of how much that statement doesn’t tell you about Brazilian brushing habits. What insights can we garner as to why Brazilians brush their teeth so much? Is it related to how social Brazilians are, spicy foods they eat, the vanity of the people or attitudes to overall healthcare? Without insights, we may know the fact, but don’t know what’s beneath the fact. 


Using the Banking example above, look at how little the facts tell us about how consumers feel about longer banking hours. The basic facts are they’ll use the bank more and spend more, but how can we use that as a way to connect with consumers and create a bond between consumers and the brand? Yet, when we dig a bit deeper and get in the shoes of the consumer and use their voice, we would hear them say: “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”. It was this type of insight that led to the bank producing a print ad with a woman doing a head stand with the caption that said “I go to yoga after work, so I switched to a bank that has flexible hours”, which achieved the best ad tracking results in the bank’s history. 

The second example came from my experience when I was a Pfizer, managing the Quit Smoking brand teams, with the Nicorette and Nicoderm brands. The insight in the Nicoderm brief read: “There are no real competitors. But studies show that people try to quit cold turkey 7x before reaching for a smoking aid to help them quit.” Again, facts say very little and give the agency nothing really to work with. The work we did around the psychological impact of the brand really changed how we managed the brand. Even in focus groups, you could see the irritation consumers had just talking about the times they had tried to quit. We brought this irritation to life through this consumer insight: “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.”  It was that ad that produced this TV ad for the Nicoderm brand. There is no way the facts alone would have provided the creative team with such insight.

Here are the six questions that a brand leader should answer before even starting a brief:

  1. Who is in the consumer target? (Who is the most motivated to buy what you do?)
  2. What is the benefit we are selling? (What is your main benefit?)
  3. Why should they believe us? (Support points to back up what you say)
  4. What’s the long-range feeling the brand evokes (What is the Big Idea for the brand?)
  5. What do we want the brand communications to do for the brand?  (Strategic Choices)
  6. What do want people to think, feel or do?  (Desired Response)

Consumer Insight is the necessary starting point to creating a powerful bond between the consumer and brand 

To see a more in depth presentation click on the Powerpoint presentation below which is a Workshop to show brand leaders how to write a Creative Brief that helps to generate a greater bond, power and profit for your brand.

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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



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Pick ONE social media lead vehicle. Don’t try to do everything.

Brand Managers heard the term “social media is free” and thought it was a media buffet so they got a crappy website, then got on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and had no clue what to do next. With no strategy or though, brand leaders went out and built very bad websites that talked about how to cleanse a wound, how to pick the right color of a dishwasher or a basic list of all the sizes and flavors you offer. You spent money on a viral video and put it on your website. Then, brand leaders created a Facebook page (with 173 likes), a Twitter account (with 97 followers) and thought about creating an Instagram account but not quite sure what you’d put on. And so now, you’re making the most of this free media?  Last year, I was driving leisurely along a country road on a Saturday afternoon and I saw a rock quarry with a sign out front that said “Like us on Facebook”. My first thought was, why would I want to like a gravel pit on Facebook? I thought what kind of updates would they be giving? Would my friends see that I liked a page with 37 likes?  Maybe that gravel pit should have used their sign for better use like “We’ve got Quartz at $9 a pound” The lesson here is that not every brand should be using Social Media, just because it’s free. And like any tactical tool, it should be well thought out and fit with your brand strategy. Don’t just go on there because you think you have to be, go on because you see that it will help grow your brand.

The role of Advertising is to create a bond with consumers, establish your brand’s positioning and drive a change in your consumers behavior that leads to higher sales, share and profit. For brands, media is an investment at touch points where consumers are most willing to engage in the story. Media has to be used to create a bond with consumers, establish your brand’s positioning, learn about your consumers and influence a change in your consumers behavior (think, act or feel) that leads to higher sales, share and profit. Since we still think social media is “free”, you have to realize that social media takes “effort” which means employees and time. You need a strategy, guidelines, interesting content, continuous feeds, engagement mechanisms. You need smart, strategic, fully engaged, creative people. So let’s look at it from an ROE point of view (return on effort). 

Return on Effort (ROE) is a great tool for focusing your activity

Doing a laundry list of activity spreads your resources so thin that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”.And in a crowded and fast economy, “ok” never breaks through enough to get the early win and find that tipping point to open up the gateway to even bigger success. Here are the benefits to the Brand by focusing your efforts: 

  • Better Return on Investment (ROI): With all the resources against one strategy, one target, one message, you’ll be able to move consumers enough to drive sales or push other key performance indicators in the right direction.
  • Better Return on Effort (ROE): It’s about getting more back than you put into the effort. Working smart helps make the most out of your people resources.
  • Stronger Reputation: When you only do one thing, you naturally start to become associated with that one thing—externally and even internally.  Reputation is a power you can push to find deeper wins.
  • More Competitive: As your reputation grows, you begin to own that one thing and you can better defend that positioning territory. You can expose the weakness of your competitors, attract new consumers as well as push internally (R&D, service, sales) to rally behind the newly created reputation.
  • Bigger and Better P&L: As the focused effort drives results, it opens up the P&L with higher sales and profits. People with money invest where they see return.

New school thinking for media planning

Brand Leaders have to recognize the change in the marketing model. For generations, they talked AT the consumer, but now they have to talk WITH the consumer. In the old school, Brand Leaders were trained to try to INTERRUPT the consumer in a busy part of their day and then YELL at them over and over again. It was all about driving AWARENESS-PURCHASE-LOYALTY where you use advertising to build Awareness which leads to conversion and then Purchase which then the brand experience leads to Loyalty. The new school of marketing is all about LOYALTY-AWARENESS-PURCHASE where you cater the most to your most loyal users, who will be the ones driving Awareness and the influence of the conversion to purchase. It’s no longer about yelling at strangers on TV.  Instead, you have to engage your most loyal consumers, and they become the medium for reaching new users as they WHISPER advice to their friends. In the last few years, I’m noticing more and more queries of Facebook where people will put “I’m going to Boston, does anyone know a good restaurant?” or “I’m buying a new phone, anyone have a recommendation?” as they trust and rely on their friends. It will be those people within their network that will carry more influence than any marketing you can provide. So if one of those is a motivated loyal user of your brand, they’ll speak with passion and conviction, carrying a great influence in that purchase decision. 

The modern Brand Leader gets the power of being a loved brand. When your brand is loved, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings and thinking is replaced by feeling.  Consumers become outspoken fans ready to speak out and battle competitive users. This connection between beloved brands and their consumer becomes a source of power for that brand to use.  In today’s world of Brands, the most Loved are the most powerful.  Brands like Starbucks, Google and Whole Foods aren’t using TV advertising, but instead they are taking their brand experience to social media and influencing their most loyal brand lovers to spread the word. People post a picture of their Pumpkin Latte on Facebook and now 137 people now want one. Equally, if they complain about their phone, it evokes similar negative feelings or doubt in us about the same phone. 

The old school thinking is what gets measured gets done. Old School media has always been about efficiency and the ROI (Return on Investment).  But New School media is about Impact and ROE (Return on Effort). The influence of social media is like the new “invisible hand” that you know is there, but can’t always measure. Yes, TV is and always will be the most efficient medium. It’s easy to stick with what you know and has a whole system of measurements.  But TV is an announcement medium, not an influence medium.TV is best used for broad awareness and new news. But it’s not as good at influencing as social media.There are loved brands who still spend 95% of their ad budget on TV. Yet, their TV ads tell us nothing new and fail to move the brand forward. The better spend would be take all that stored energy within their most loyal users and get them to influence their network of friends. Your most loyal consumers become the medium for attracting new users.  

It’s not just demographics but emotional-graphics

As a consumer, I use many of social media tools available, but it seems my mood changes when I switch from one tool to another. Not thinking about it, but I have different emotional expectations from each social media tool I use. When I’m on Linked In, I am hoping to advance my career–I seek out knowledge, leads on jobs or see connections who may help me get ahead. But on a second’s notice I switch over to Facebook looking for an escape where I can connect with old friends, post photos of my recent trip to Hawaii or comment on some issue that my friends are talking about. I click over to Twitter and I retweet a funny meme that makes me laugh or Tweet about something crazy I saw on the way to work. I switch over to the Weather Network to see if my Golf Game on Saturday will be free of rain, and click on a Huffington Post article about something stupid Bieber did last night. Then I go back to work. I may not realize it, but I have satisfied many of my emotional needs–thirst for knowledge (Linked In), need for control (weather), wanting to be liked and noticed (Facebook) as well as wanting to be free (Twitter) and finally a little of being myself (Huffington Post). 

At Beloved Brands, we believe that passion matters, both with the consumer and brands. The more emotional connection that brands can create with consumers, the more powerful that brand will be. Brand Leaders tend to get stuck when trying to figure out the emotional benefits. 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 Research have mapped out all the emotional zones for consumers. I’m not a researcher, but if you’re interested in this method contact Hotspex at http://www.hotspex.biz  Leverage this type of research and build your story around the emotions that best fit your consumer needs. Leveraging the Hotspex work, we’ve mapped out 8 zones in a simple way below in what we call our “Emotional Cheat Sheet” for Brands:



Within each of the zones, you can find emotional words that closely align to the need state of your consumer and begin building the emotional benefits within your Customer Value Proposition. How it works is you have to figure out which emotional zone your brand can own through research or using instincts. And just like a rational position, you can’t try to own them all. Force yourself to stay within a zone that may include 1 or 2 of the emotional need states.  If we think of the world’s leading car companies, Volkswagen’s quirkiness allows you to be comfortable with being yourself, Volvo’s safety features makes you feel knowledgeable and in control, yet a Mini Cooper’s spunky styles gets you noticed or be liked and the power of the Dodge Charger allows you to feel free and feel optimistic on the road. 

Match up your Brand’s emotional zone to social media site’s emotional zone

Once you figure out what emotional zone your brand can own, we recommend that your lead social media vehicle should play in that same emotional zone. The Dodge Charger might be better off showcasing their brand on Youtube and having an outspoken voice on Twitter. Volvo better own every safe word on Google, make sure their Wikipedia page accurately reflects their brand’s record. Volkswagen could use a provocative voice on the Huffington Post or own Trip Advisor. Using our “Emotional Cheat Sheet, we’ve mapped out where some of the leading social media and digital sites fall.  


For Brand Leaders to get it, they should be living in the space of social media. It’s a great chance for Brand Leaders to get in the shoes of your consumer, see how they live, hear what’s important to them, use their rich language and feel what they think about your brand. Be active and be engaged. You’d better hurry though, because pretty soon what we see in front of us as new school media will be old pretty soon. And then you’ll be completely out of it.

Use social media to take a walk in the shoes of your consumers

To see a more in depth presentation please read the Powerpoint presentation below which is a Workshop to show brand leaders how to use Media Planning to generate more power and profit for their brand.

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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



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The delusion of Mergers hurts the brands

6-merger-slide1-304-1M&A (Mergers and Acquisitions) talk around the Kraft-Heinz deal has dominated the business news. For most of us outsiders, it seemed like a surprise. We knew something was up with Heinz after the purchase by 3G Capital private equity group. But for Kraft, it seems like there has already been 30+ years of mergers starting with Kraft and General Foods in 1989, then adding Nabisco and Cadbury only to then split those two companies back out into two separate companies: Kraft and Mondelez. Since the split, the Kraft business is flat, the Mondelez continues to decline, likely both companies hurt by the changing diet of consumers as they cut high fat, high sugar products from their diet.

During my 20 year career, I went through three mergers. Each mergers used a different “merger” rule: one went fast, one went slow and one went clumsy. They say it takes 2 years for a merger to work. From my experience it takes longer.  Prior to the merger, everyone wastes a lot of time speculating what is going to happen, lots of lunch table chit chat and good people leave in anticipation. Headhunters are now pouncing on the people at Kraft. When the merger finally hits, you spend a lot of time on things not related to growing the brands. You have to train senior leaders above you and sales people beside on the “new” brand. Usually, everyone is trying to appear as smart as they can, but in reality for the next year, they ask the most elementary questions. As people jockey for power, some the brightest and best people I’ve ever worked with turn into school children–gossiping, maneuvering, changing their personality to fit in with key people, and some feeling/appearing demoralized and defeated.

Most M&A research studies estimate that the overall failure rate is at least 50 percent. In surveys with executives conducted in recent years, the percentage of companies that failed to reach the goals of the merger was 83 percent. With those statistics known, you would expect leaders to avoid the M&A activity, yet the trend of mergers and acquisitions has been constantly increasing over the past 20 years. Moreover, the number of mergers and acquisitions and the sums of money invested in them have shattered the record almost every year! Even though acquisitions cost billions, the purchase is much easier to do than executing merger. We see the lack of planning, the realization that synergies are not what you expected, the major differences in the culture becomes clear, negotiation assumptions and mistakes prove costly, and quick decisions made impact the overall motivation.

Here’s a list of the top mergers in history


The reasons most M&A’s happen is the same reason they fail

  • Our business is struggling, their business is doing well: So if your business is struggling, you need a turnaround, not the distraction from a merger. The effort undertaken during a merger will only make your business struggle even more. And you acquired a high growth, which means you’re likely buying high at a price premium. That will be hard for you to realize. This premium is generally so high that even successful management activities after the acquisition do not provide ROI (return on investment) and do not remedy the valuation “error.” The only thing left to do is to cut costs, both in people and marketing usually resulting in the struggling business doing even worse and the newly acquired business starting to flatten out.  
  • Allow us into new markets (new categories, new channels, new geographies). Yes, now your newly merged company will be in new markets, but it doesn’t necessarily translate that your brands will gain easy entry into those markets. At the shelf, retailers may hold your companies share of shelf so that means if you want your new brand in, you have to take out skus of your newly acquired brand. All that means is that as your brand takes time to gain any momentum in the new market it is entering, any gain is offset by a dramatic loss of sales of the brand you took off the shelf. A second risk to entering into markets is the merger may have cost the talent with the knowledge of the new market–and now inexperienced leaders are making decisions about markets they know very little about. With the Heinz-Kraft deal, 60% of Heinz sales are beyond North America, but 2% of Kraft. They have already tried to spin this great myth that this opens up new markets for the old Kraft brands. I want to see them try to sell Velveeta, Jello or Cheez Whiz in France or Italy. Sounds good on the books, but not in reality. 
  • Imagine the power of us together: the size, clout and efficiencies. In a business driven or dominated by retail, that power can certainly help. Where there are large manufacturing or union costs, the efficiency can be leveraged for lower costs. layoff-in-newspaperBut when all you have is efficiency, it becomes obsessive and you look everywhere to cut costs in order to pay off the merger. The first round is easy: close redundant plants and warehouses, eliminate duplicate sales people. And you see results. But since every business must show incremental profit to show the merger a success, the second round of synergies that are harder to show. Now you cut brand support–reduce marketing spend, starting re-organizing teams to reduce people, squeeze suppliers for cost reduction. It can work in the short term, but while the organization becomes obsessive about synergies, who is focused on the growth? If the top-line doesn’t grow,you will eventually run out of places to cut. And becoming this huge conglomerate can make you slow to respond, stodgy, risk-averse and ripe with bureaucracy. This starts to sound like the old Kraft General Foods of the 90s and early 2000s, who closed successful businesses, got rid of some great talent through the years and are known as one of the most risk-averse conglomerates around. My big worry about the new Heinz-Kraft is how to make sure the new company can move with the agility needed in this ever changing marketplace. 
  • We will acquire a technology or expertise we don’t have. At first, it makes sense that you can buy the technology or expertise of your competitor, but likely it comes at a premium with no guarantee for success. If it’s a technology buy, you can certainly use it in your own product since you bought it. But we like to say that brands have four choices:  better, different, cheaper or not around for very long. Now you’ll have both brands appearing almost the same. It’s very challenging to run two brands in one category–I know from experience. The biggest issue is that the two brands start to resemble each other to the point of duplication–if this worked here why won’t it work there. The same technology under the hood, the same distribution strategies and the same ad agency produces similar ads. The best case study for this was when Ford bought Mazda and used identical parts for cars yet tried to appeal to different targets at different price points. On the other case, when you acquire talent, you also acquire a distinct culture you need to make sure you continue. There are many cases where companies purchased an innovative R&D team and failed because that team was mis-managed and lost that innovative spirit. Case in point was Ford’s purchase of Volvo, almost destroying the brand’s spirit of innovation in safety. Both the Volvo and Mazda brands did much better after escaping Ford. Oddly enough, is it any coincidence that the Ford brand is now one of the best performing brands in the market?  It will interesting to see what happens with Apple and Beats by Dre as that deal highly favored Beats, and it’s Apple’s first real attempt at M&A. 
  • Ego Play: Many times the personal interests of senior management are not always aligned with those of the stockholders. The CEO and management team see personal advantages in the merger, such as greater empowerment and control of a larger organization, improvement of the social-management status, and higher salaries and benefits. With wide-eyed optimism, they convince themselves that they can do a better job managing the brands they acquire, they tell themselves they can find more growth and cut costs at the same time. Ego can get in the way of good strategic thinking. Companies can get in bidding wars and corporate ego sees the price get out of hand. They get so deep into the deal, they have to have it–at all costs. In any transaction, when things get emotional the seller wins.
  • Our cultures are a perfect match: Very rarely do we hear this as the primary reason. Yes, we hear it in the press release and at the opening day rally, but as many of us have gone through a few of these, we know that 5 senior leaders meeting 5 other senior leaders and working out a deal is not usually a good indicator that the cultures are a good fit. Even if they say so. Business culture is an odd thing and should not be under-estimated. Usually a merger never allows the due-diligence to find out about whether the cultures fit.  

mergers-acquisitions-22744864Who benefits from Mergers

  • The brands don’t benefit. And the consumer misses out as well. With a distracted company sorting through the merger and trying to make the numbers, it’s usually innovation that gets delayed or cut. With demand for synergies, production costs/warehouse costs likely impacts ingredient choices and freshness options. Sadly, many times the product just isn’t the same as it used to be. 
  • Brand Leaders don’t benefit. They have to re-work and re-work plans for new management. And usually the discussions are a step back in the degree of strategic challenge the first year or two. You get questions like “so tell me how this brand works?” or “have we always done it that way?”.  As synergies happen, we see options like re-structuring the marketing team to group brands together. That means less attention can be paid to each brand or the details beneath. Brand budgets are scrutinized and cut–usually sticking to the safest options in the plan and eliminating creative ideas that that carry risk.  
  • The HR team doesn’t benefit. While they are seen as the “evil group” in a merger, they are usually under the most pressure to cut head count and deliver the bad news, while coincidently being challenged to find a new culture from these two companies that don’t fit nicely together.  This group bears the brunt of the merger. 
  • Shareholders: The statistics show that the shareholders of the seller benefits more than the shareholder of the buyer. Considering, mergers can come out of nowhere fast, this is just a crap shoot as to which company stock you hold. But it really does speak to the premium paid in these deals. As they say in Real Estate, never buy high. 
  • Investment Banks and McKinsey Consulting: At the whim of the leaders, both groups receive huge fees for doing the deal and executing the merger plan. Oddly enough, neither group seems to be at risk or on the hook if the deal or the merger go bad. They just keep moving on to the next deal. 
  • Senior Leaders in the short-term. With the approval to move forward, they increase their status within every touch point–with retailers, with peers, with agencies and in the business community. They likely benefited financially from the merger–either higher salary bump or bonuses. In the longer term, they are on the hot seat to make this deal pay off, and with a 50% failure rate, they likely won’t last. 

Yes mergers are as much of a reality as baseball trades. Like in baseball, managers think we can do more with that asset (brand or player) than they are doing. But more and more, just as the best sports teams are winning because of the organic development of their players, the same holds true for brands. Focus on growing your brands, choosing the right consumer driven strategies and executing with intelligence and passion. Stay focused on your own business instead of drooling over others.  

While the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, make sure your own business is in good shape.


To see a more in depth presentation please read the powerpoint presentation below which is a Workshop to show brand leaders how to create a beloved brand so they can generate more power and profit for their brand.

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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



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How severely damaged is the Toronto Maple Leafs brand?

leafs-badI think the Leafs should be a little worried about the health of their brand. While they have been bad for the entire century so far, this year feels even more disconnected and puts them at risk, if things are not fixed. There are major signs of brand health issues, which usually shows up in advance of any issues with brand wealth. But I think with a quick shot of the optimism drug over the summer, the crazy Leaf fans will be hooked again.

Here’s the brand health issues that should raise concern:

  • Leaf game not shown on TV?  Last Saturday, Hockey Night in Canada decided not to air the Leafs game on the main network for the first time in forty years. With TV media, there are so many games on TV and on-line, that the big Saturday night game is not the same. In fact, the biggest risk now is that I can see 82 games of any team I want.  
  • No sell out? This past Monday, the Leafs failed to sell out for the first time in 15 years. While giving up a little revenue for not selling out, the bigger risk here is that if tickets are going for $30, then it takes away the mystique of going to the game. The good news is the Leafs have announced they won’t raise ticket prices. I love that they actually felt compelled enough to announce this, which shows the true power of the brand.  
  • Fans cheering for the Leafs to lose: Not only are the Leafs tanking this season to get a good draft pick, the fans are cheering for the opponents so that the Leafs do lose. If the Leafs are bad again next year, the fans may again cheer against the Leafs.  If this goes on for 5 years, do these fans go find another team?
  • Fans are mad at the current team: Fans are so enraged at the current crop of Leafs that they continue to boo the best players and have thrown sweaters on the ice in dis-respect of the team. The players took it upon themselves to “not salute the fans” as their retribution. It’s never good to go to war with the fans, when the only thing you have is fans. 

The Leafs brand is on pause this year. The fans are on hold, waiting to see what happens next. I believe if the Leafs get rid of a few players, draft a big name (even if it’s not McDavid) and get a big name coach, they would create the perception that they are moving in the right direction. As we discuss below, the Leafs are not really focused on winning the cup, but rather giving the illusion and optimism that they “could” win the cup. 

The success of the Leafs brand defies logic

When we look at the most valuable sports franchises around the world, whether it’s Ferrari, Manchester United, Real Madrid, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers or New England Patriots, they usually have one thing in common:  THEY WIN.  And in most cases, they win a lot. We’ve never really found out what happens to those brands when they lose.  And then there’s the Toronto Maple Leafs who recently joined the ranks of the most valued brands, now worth an estimated $1.2 Billion. 

  • The last time the Leafs won a hockey championship was 1967, when Lyndon Johnson was President, The Beatles were releasing the Sgt Pepper’s album and Wal-Mart only had 24 stores (all still in Arkansas). It was even 8 years before Justin Bieber’s mom would be born.
  • The Leafs have made the playoffs once since 2004. None of their current players were even in the league in 2004. And they are the only NHL team not to make the playoffs during those years.
  • There were two major work stoppages in the NHL in 2005 and 2012–one wiped out an entire season, the other a half season. In both of those years, the value of the Leafs jumped up. And yet, since 2004, the value of the Toronto Maple Leafs has gone up from $280 Million to $1.2 Billion.

So clearly for the Leafs, actually playing and winning the games doesn’t really matter to value of the Leafs brand. Yes, Apple’s market value has gone up at a faster pace, but they’ve launched iTunes, iPod, iPhone, iPad and the Macbook during that time.  

Most great brands have a vision for the future: what’s the Leafs brand vision?

Like any sports team, the Leafs will state their vision of “we want to win the Stanley Cup”. It sounds good. It’s what you’re supposed to say. Proof for what the real vision might be in the fact that for past 15 years they were owned by a pension fund and they rewarded their President financially, not for how the Leafs did on the ice, but how well the Leafs did off the ice. And now they are owned by a media conglomerate who sees the Leafs as content to get the millions of insane Leafs fans watching in person, on TV and on-line. I believe a more appropriate Brand Vision for the Leafs is “to be the most beloved sports franchise” or even a stretch “to be the most valued sports franchise in the world”. 

Does winning matter?  Yes, but it’s a strategy to help the vision of being the most loved or most valuable sports franchise. It’s the “how” you get to the vision, but not the vision itself. The hook is to appear that you are doing the right things to try to win the cup–enough to keep the fan base engaged.

Holding the Leafs up to the principles of a beloved brand

I once had an economics Professor who said “economics proves that what happens in real life can actually happen in theory”. Well, I usually use the Apple brand to prove how the theories of Beloved Brands work, but let’s take the Leafs brand on a test run and see how they line up.

First, we believe that consumers connect with brands based on a “big idea”. That’s the tough question for the Leafs: what is their big idea? Is it the heritage/history, being the home team of the biggest hockey market or the great underdog story?  At times, it’s been the “loveable losers”, where the mediocre/good players like Palmateer or Vaive become legends in the community. But that’s still not enough to make the brand that connected. The big idea during Steinbrenner’s Yankees was “we we will do whatever it takes to win–at any cost” where as the Montreal Canadiens are all about “we maintain the pride and dignity of history and we’ll do what’s right in our pursuit of victory”. It’s hard to truly see a big idea to connect with the Leafs. While most fans have this nagging feeling in the back of their mind that the Leafs will never win in their lifetime, I believe they cheer for the Leafs “to stay engaged enough just in case there is that once in a lifetime chance to win the cup”. So the Leafs are more like a potential “once in a lifetime eclipse” that fans want to see or even a lottery ticket. The only other sports brand like the Leafs are the loveable Chicago Cubs.  If the Leafs are that “eclipse”, I’ve always debated that if they ever do win the Cup, would more people keep watching or would people stop watching. The Toronto Blue Jays may prove that once they won the World Series, the Toronto fans were like “great, so what’s next” and moved on. My guess is that I’ll never know the answer to this question, as I don’t expect the Leafs to ever win the cup.  

Once you have the big idea for your brand, you need to map out the 5 Brand Connectors to help deliver that big idea: the brand promise, strategy, brand story, freshness of Innovation and a culture that helps deliver the promise.  


Arguably, the Leafs might be defying all 5 of these sources of connectivity. 

  • Brand Promise: Most beloved sports teams can say “we promise to deliver an on-field team that will always be competitive enough to win a championship”. The Yankees, Man U, Ferrari, the Canadiens and Real Madrid can easily say that. The Leafs promise to “win a championship” feels hollow. If that was their promise, the brand would be a complete failure. Fans would walk away and the value of the team would fall. Well, at least for a normal team. When fans get excited about the Leafs, the world feels better, they are happy and optimistic for the future. The real promise for the Leafs is “we’ll make you feel good even if the pursuit of victory is greater than the victory itself.” Maybe if you have that underdog spirit in your own life, you see hope in the Leafs where no one else sees hope. But the problem for this year is that when they lose, that optimism comes crashing down. A friend of mine who is a Leafs fan had a baby a few weeks ago, and posted on Facebook “when do you break it to the kid that the Leafs won’t win a Championship in his life time?” Sadly, that kid will be a Leaf fan. He now bleeds blue. And will pay thousands of dollars towards the leafs coffers over his life time. 
  • Strategy: In terms of players, the Leafs have relied the last 15 years on signing free agents. But in managing the brand, they focus on hyping up the players, they build up the optimism at the beginning of each year and keep the fan base engaged with constant communication and stay reasonably competitive to at least give hope for getting in the playoffs. The Leafs manage to keep the fan base hooked by constantly feeding them optimism. The problem this year is that they’ve fallen so far out of the playoffs the talk of re-build has the fans confused. Those players they’ve hyped turned out to be jerks, who won’t salute the fans, refuse interviews and don’t even try on the ice. It’s hard for the Leafs to hype players that aren’t well liked. 
  • Brand Story: As I was growing up, the Leafs always successfully connected the past (Johnny Bower, Bobby Baun or Daryl Sitler) to the current team. The stories stressed the values of toughness, hard work and how the underdog always over-achieved in the face of adversity. That story fit nicely to the Leaf teams of the 90s with Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark and Felix Potvin who went to the semi finals in back to back years. However, today’s current Leaf teams are the opposite:  over-hyped, over-paid and under-achieving players like Kessel and Phaneuf, certainly not aligned to the values of toughness and hard work. 
  • Freshness: For a sports team, freshness comes through the signing of new players and then building optimism around those players. The problem is the salary cap and the current roster has the team trapped. The tanking to get a draft pick has been a good strategy as it will provide someone (McDavid or even Strome) that they can build around. You will see this summer that the Leafs will build all the optimism of a rebuild around the youthful team. And fans will buy into it.   
  • Experience: There are only two ways to experience the brand–either in person or on TV. Going to a Leaf game has a buzz and excitement to it. The tickets are usually so expensive that it is so rare for the average person to get to go. The TV games are rooted in history: “Hockey Night in Canada” at 7pm has been one of the highest rated TV shows since the 1950s. And so this year, we’ve now seen two things happen. Last Saturday, for the first time since the early 1970s, the Leafs were not shown on Hockey Night in Canada, with the CBC choosing the Montreal Canadiens game. It’s all about ratings, even though the network that shows the games owns the Leafs. And this past Monday, the Leaf game wasn’t a sell out, and on StubHub you can easily get tickets for $25. So while this is your chance to finally go to a game, no one really wants to even go.

How the Leafs make money

Like any brand, there are really only 8 ways to make more money:  premium pricing, trading up on price, lower cost of goods, efficient spending, stealing share. getting loyal users to use more, entering new markets and finding new uses for the brand.


Pricing: Ticket prices for the Leafs are the highest in the NHL–an average of $375 over 42 home games, which is three times the average ticket price for Detroit Red Wings or even six times the price for Tampa Bay. Getting tickets to a game is nearly impossible for the average fan. Every game is a sell-out. It’s a 40 year wait for Leaf seasons tickets. These end up in people’s wills. The ACC also uses strong luxury box and platinum ticket sales to trade the business consumers up on price–so not only are they paying $1,000, they also have to order enough food and drinks to support a luxury box. If the Leafs look at an extended downturn on play or even a 5-year turnaround, it likely won’t impact average price but it may impact the # of sell outs–especially as the Leafs just experienced their first non-sellout in 15 years.  

Costs: Control of costs works in the favour of the Leafs. The NHL has a salary cap that holds teams to $60 Million per year, which is 6% of the team’s brand value. For the other hockey teams worth $200 Million, that’s 30% of their brand value. That’s a huge competitive advantage for the Leafs–still defies why they can’t win. There’s no real need for “marketing costs” as every game is on TV, with normal exceptionally strong ratings. While the ratings are only in Canada, they are such a dominant ‘country brand’ that it makes the local market all of Canada, which means it has access to 30 Million people.The Leafs receive added earned media with 2 sports TV stations, 3 radio stations and 3 major Newspapers constantly covering every move the team makes. Both sports stations hold a daily live show at lunch time. 

Share: The Leafs dominate the media landscape but end up sharing that revenue with the NHL. It’s estimated that 70% of the league revenues come from Canada–my guess is that most of that comes from the Leafs. For the Leafs merchandise sales are very strong. The Leafs announced it was changing its third jersey to be a replica of the 1967 jersey. Which means all those fans have to go out and drop another $129 on a new jersey. This past year, the Leafs have added a sports bar to the ACC, just outside the arena that has hundreds of TVs and seating for two thousand people. With a roster currently filled with unpopular players, the Leafs need a few popular players for the fans to put a name on the back to really drive up the merchandise sales.

Market Size: The Leafs have expanded the size of the market by driving sponsorship and even creating Leafs TV. The team’s sponsorship drive is incredible–carrying an astounding 50+ sponsors on its roster–including separating out the banking category into Core Banking, Wealth Banking, Credit Card banking, which allows them to get money from three separate banks. Sponsorship is a money machine. The Leafs TV expands the brand for the most loyal followers to connect even more. The Leafs have also launched a bar attached to their stadium that holds another 2,200 fans who drink and eat during the 2 and 1/2 hour game. If the crowd shrinks or the Leafs lose early each time, this bar will be clearing out by the 2nd period. 

Income statement: In 2011 with the world facing a global recession, following up on a 29th place finish in the standings, the Leafs revenue went up ELEVEN PERCENT!!!  And then they raised ticket prices. Because of the player strike a few years ago, player costs have gone down from $69 million to $57 million. Revenue up, costs down–that’s a P&L the people of Price Waterhouse dream about. A lot of the value is now connected to how much money will be made in the future.  The NHL just signed a 10 year labor contract giving the Leafs cost certainty and a 5 year media deal giving the Leafs revenue certainty. While I still don’t think the Leafs will win a championship in the next 10 years, I would bet they will hit $2 Billion.  

It’s not easy being a Leaf Fan. Yet like a drug, it’s not easy to stop being a Leaf fan.



To see a more in depth presentation please read the powerpoint presentation below which is a Workshop to show brand leaders how to create a beloved brand so they can generate more power and profit for their brand.

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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


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10 ways how to make your brand more loved

Where is your brand on the Brand Love Curve?

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on the Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand. At the Beloved stage, you will see that demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand.

With each stage of the Brand Love Curve, the consumer will see your brand differently. The worst case is when consumers have “no opinion” of your brand. They just don’t care. But in highly competitive markets, you survive by being liked, but you thrive by being loved. Be honest with yourself as to what stage you are at, and try to figure out how to be more loved, with a vision of getting to the Beloved Brand stage.

Here are the indicators of why you might be stuck at the Like It stage.

  • Low conversion to sales: While the brand looks healthy in terms of awareness and equity scores, the brand is successful in becoming part of the consumer’s consideration set, but it keeps losing out to the competition as the consumer goes to the purchase stage. It usually requires a higher trade spend to close that sale which cuts price and margins.
  • Brand doesn’t feel different: A great advertising tracking score to watch is “made the brand seem different” which helps to separate itself from the pack, many times speaking to the emotional part of the messaging.
  • Stagnant shares: Your brand team is happy when they hold onto their share, content to grow with the category.
  • High private label sales: If you only focus on the ingredients and the rational features of the product, the consumer will start to figure out they get the same thing with the private label and the share starts to creep up to 20% and higher.

Before you get started you might evaluate what has your brand stuck at the Like It stage.

  • Protective brand leaders means caution: While many of these brands at the Like It are very successful brands, they get stuck because of overly conservative and fearful Brand Managers, who pick middle of the road strategies and execute “ok” ideas. On top of this, Brand Managers who convince themselves that “we stay conservative because it’s a low interest category” should be removed. Low interest category means you need even more to captivate the consumer.
  • You see yourself as a rational thinking marketer: Those marketers that believe they are strictly rational are inhibiting their brands. The brand managers get all jazzed on claims, comparatives, product demonstration and doctor recommended that they forget about the emotional side of the purchase decision. Claims need to be twisted into benefits—both rational and emotional benefits. Consumers don’t care about you do until you care about what they need. Great marketers find that balance of the science and art of the brand. Ordinary marketers get stuck with the rational only
  • It’s a new brand with momentum: Stage 2 of a new brand innovation is ready to expand from the early adopters to the masses. The new brand begins to differentiate itself in a logical way to separate themselves from the proliferation of copycat competitors. Consumers start to go separate ways as well. Retailers might even back one brand over another. Throughout the battle, the brand carves out a base of consumers.
  • There’s a major leak: If you look at the brand buying system, you’ll start to see a major leak at some point where you keep losing customers. Most brands have some natural flaw—whether it’s the concept, the product, taste profile ease of use or customer service. Without analyzing and addressing the leak, the brand gets stuck. People like it, but refuse to love it.
  • Brand changes their mind every year: Brands really exist because of the consistency of the promise. When the promise and the delivery of the promise changes every year it’s hard to really connect with what the brand is all about. A brand like Wendy’s has changed their advertising message every year over the past 10 years. The only consumers remaining are those who like their burgers, not the brand.
  • You believe that you have positional power, so who needs Love:there are brands that have captured a strong positional power, whether it`s a unique technology or distribution channel or even value pricing advantage. Brands like Microsoft or Wal-Mart or even many of the pharmaceuticals products don`t see value in the idea of being loved. The problem is when you lose the positional power, you lose your customer base completely.
  • The Brand has captured some love, but no life ritual:There are brands that quickly capture the imagination but somehow fail to capture a routine embedded in the consumers’ life, usually due to some flaw. Whether it’s Krispy Kreme, Pringles or even Cold Stone, there’s something inherent in the brand’s format or weakness that holds it back and it stays stuck at Loved but just not often enough. So, you forget you love them.

Here are the 10 ways that you can move your brand along the journey to being a beloved brand.

#1  Everything you do should start and end with the consumer in mind.

#2  Focus everything on where your brand can win.

#3 Be seen as unique—both in positioning and execution.

#4 Connect with consumers based on insights that get in the SHOES of your consumer and use their VOICE.

#5 Build a big idea that you can shout from the mountain.

#6 Connect with your consumers on a deeply emotional level.

#7 Beloved brands don’t just solve basic problems, they beat down the consumer’s enemy.

#8 Focus all your resources against those strategic pressure points that provide the greatest return.

#9 Execute with passion. If you don’t love your work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?

#10 Use your brand idea to build an experience that over-delivers the brand promise you made.

To see a more in depth presentation please read the powerpoint presentation below which is a Workshop to show brand leaders how to create a beloved brand so they can generate more power and profit for their brand.

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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


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You deserve better advertising

Slide1While 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 a 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. 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.

Be a better client

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. 


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. Slide01
  • 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. 

Get the advertising you deserve

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 THINK STRATEGICALLY, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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



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What the #*$& is wrong with McDonald’s? Here’s five things wrong.

imagesI’ve been confused about McDonald’s marketing the past year, mainly because it appears that McDonald’s is confused about their marketing. That coincides with poor business results, in a downward trend for each of the past 9 months, with February’s numbers showing a deepening issue–down 4% versus last year. “Consumer needs and preferences have changed,” the company said in Monday’s statement. “McDonald’s current performance reflects the urgent need to evolve with today’s consumers, reset strategic priorities and restore business momentum.”

McDonald’s are in desperate need for a RE-FOCUS, so they can get everyone focused on what matters the most. There needs to be an alignment of the team, a return behind their strengths and a return to the fundamentals. The issue with the culture at McDonald’s is that it’s very top-down insular culture with very little outside thinking–which is great when things are going well, but will be tough to battle through when things aren’t going so well.  

Here’s the top 5 potential things wrong with McDonald’s. 

McDonald’s is not aligned with the trend towards healthy eating. 51JW1207ZALThat’s obvious, but that was also equally obvious the past 5 years ago when they grew an average of 10% a year, even +13% the year after the “Super Size Me” movie came out. Also, there are a few examples of indulgent brands that have done well (e.g. 5 Guys), in countering the health trend, to use it as a regular escape from your diet.McDonald’s scored high marks for putting calories on their menu, but bad publicity when they fought NYC on the size of drinks they serve. So while this might be part of the decline, I’m not sure this is the main reason for the decline. McDonald’s should be able to still find growth in this market. 

McDonald’s lacks a product-identity of what it’s now the best at. I’m older so I still think of it as a fast-food burger & fries place. But the menu has become so diverse, I’m no longer sure consumers know what McDonald’s is all about. Without a main product identity where it can win, McDonald’s runs the risk of being second fiddle to everyone they compete against–second fiddle to 5 Guys on burgers, to Dairy Queen on Shakes, to Chick-Fil-A on chicken, to Starbucks on Coffee and Subway on sandwiches. A great case study for McDonald’s is what happened with Starbucks in 2009, where they closed every Starbucks for a day to re-train baristas and send a signal that they are a coffee place. Here’s what I wrote about the Starbucks Case Study: The Starbucks Come Back story: Losing their focus, only to regain it!!!  McDonald’s should re-claim the stake that they are the best burger. They should have done this the past 12-24 months before allowing 5 Guys to get to 1500 locations. They need to own the burger. 

Slide1No one wants to know how sausage is made. I know the internet is attacking McDonald’s all the time about using bleach in their burgers and pink goop in their chicken but we don’t really need McDonald’s mass media to tell us their burgers are made from 100% real beef and their chicken is made from 100% real chicken. I always assumed it was, but now that you bring attention to it, you’re kind of grossing me out. McDonald’s took it a step farther with this on-line video they produced.  Here’s what I wrote last spring: McDonald’s takes a wonderful Advertising idea…and makes a complete disaster out of it  While they might think this video works to explain what their brand is about, I find this video makes me never want a nugget again in my life. As CNN reports below, it’s not pink goop, it’s beige goop and it sure doesn’t make you hungry.   Looking at the options above, McDonald’s should be focused on the heart and the soul of their consumers. McDonald’s needs less attention on the product and more on the magic of the idea of the brand–as the fun little escape for lunch place. 

The experience is now slow and not really that cheap. Ray Kroc’s McDonald’s that grew so fast in the 1960s and 70s was vested in the strong values of quality, service, cleanliness and value. People were trained the McDonald’s way and as a customer you benefited from fast, friendly service and franchises were expected to keep a clean, well-run restaurants. The last few times I’ve been, the speed has been disastrous–you order and then wait 5-10 minutes for them to yell out your number. There is no way the service is friendly–as I rarely hear manners from a McDonald’s employee. Manners are free and can go a long way in making a difference.  

mccafe-headerThe McCafe branding and restaurant re-design. Here’s an article I wrote on McDonald’s launch into the coffee market two years ago: Can McDonald’s win the Coffee War? Not a chance. But two years later, it’s even more important to realize that not only is Starbucks winning, but the investment McDonald’s has put into the coffee launch has taken away from investing in their core fast food business. McDonald’s put major capital into putting fake fireplaces into most locations–major costs that still resemble a plastic play-land. The thing that drives me most crazy about the McCafe is they are hiding what they really are: the golden arches, Ronald McDonald’s, the Big Mac and french fries. While McDonald’s should keep a good coffee, it’s time to re-focus back on being a fast food destination. Get rid of the McCafe branding BS and just make it a product that McDonald’s has, not a separate brand logo that competes with the McDonald’s logo. 

As a new CEO takes the helm, it is time for McDonald’s to re-focus. There is a need for some creativity and investing back in creating a food experience that McDonald’s can win on. Re-train staff to be friendlier and faster for consumers Create magical brand advertising that bonds with consumers. My hope is that McDonald’s can get there–as it’s one of the hall of fame brands out there.

McDonald’s needs to find a reason for their consumers to love it again

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 THINK STRATEGICALLY, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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



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