Tag Archive: strategy

5 Crucial Career Questions to Ask yourself in the most honest soul-searching start to what’s next

Slide1Too many brilliant Brand Leaders forget to apply the same fundamental principles of Branding to themselves. It seems that at the senior levels (Director, VP) while we are at the most vulnerable part of our career, we become a bit complacent. Having been in the job market, having seen many peers going through dramatic job and life changes, I continue to see great Brand Leaders do a bad job marketing themselves. Before you do anything, you should assess your situation by asking some of the toughest questions:

  1. Within your current company, how high up do you think you can realistically go?  Be very honest. I’ve always believed that by your 40th birthday, you might have peaked or at best have one more level left to climb. Yes, there are exceptions, but you can’t plan to be one of the exceptions. The problem is that once you have peaked, how long do you realistically think you can remain successful within your current company, before you get squeezed out.  And you might want to proactively take action at 45, rather than reactively be forced to take action at 55.  
  2. Should you stay in the same industry or look at new verticals?  If you’re in CPG, Brand Management still has the power to drive the brands you work on. But once you leave CPG, marketing’s role gets diminished, usually becoming a marketing communications function–either communicating the product innovation or service, which as a Marketer you might have little control over. With less control over the pure direction of the business or even brand, marketing becomes a bit more of a do-er support function who explains what has already been done by the brand, rather than a strategic marketer who leads the business. What you’ll also find is that as you move out of CPG, the talent levels that will fall under you goes down considerably. And then you have to jump in, going lower than you are used to in prior CPG roles.  
  3. Should you stay in pure Brand Management or venture into a subject-matter expert type roles? This is one of the harder decisions you will make, because once you make it, you might not be able to turn back. It is human nature to want to label people–and this is one of the struggles you will face in managing your career, especially if you become a Subject Matter Expert. If you move out of Brand Management, and it doesn’t work out, it might be harder to convince future employers that you are still a generalist who can drive their brands.  
  4. How long do you want to keep working?  As you get older, you’ll have to start asking this. Part of this decision will depend on your own personal finances and your family situation. When I was 25, I would have hoped I’d retire at 55 on an island.  But at 45, I found myself asking “so what do I want to do for the next 15 years?”  I had no clue of the answer.  And it was scary.   
  5. Do you stay an employee or do you take this moment to leap out on your own? If most marketing careers peak in your 40s, still being an employee at 50 puts you at risk of being laid off by a 38-year-old one day. As we get older, you will find that it becomes harder to sit through a performance review. Being on your own gives you a certain power to be your own boss. I went out on my own a few years ago and love it.  But when anyone asks me if they should, my immediate reaction is to say “that it’s not for everyone”. I want to make sure you are serious about it, and not getting me to try to talk you into it. It will be you who has to jump off the cliff.  I still remember the phone call with my wife, where I told her about 10 times “I’m going to do it”. I was more preparing myself for it, than telling her. It can feel very risky but once you realize that you are betting on yourself you will know you can do it. The lifestyle is great, but you’re on the clock 24/7.  And it can be a very lonely experience–which surprised an introvert like myself.  It took me 18 months to get used to the being alone feeling.

You have to answer these questions honestly before going out into the market, looking for a job. These answers help frame the strategy for the roles you’d consider. Think of these questions as a starting point to your Personal Branding.  To read more, including looking at a deep dive assessment of your personal situation and how to create your own Brand,  follow this Powerpoint presentation:

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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Check List of 10 things that Great Advertising should do

When you are in the midst of an advertising project, and you’re feeling stuck as a Brand Leader use this simple check list to find out where things might be missing for you.  The best Advertising should do these 10 things: 

  1. Set Yourself Apart.  Beloved Brands must be different, better, cheaper or not around very long.   The story telling of the brand’s promise should help to separate the brand from the clutter of our minds. That starts with creative that feels different and makes the brand seem different. 
  2. Focused!   A focused target, a focused message, a focused strategy against a focused communication idea and a focused media.  
  3. Keep the Idea and Communication very simple.  Communication is not what is said, but what is heard. Too many people try to shout as many messages as they can in one ad.  What the consumer hears:  a confusing mess or nothing really.  My challenge to you is to stand up on a chair and yell your main message as though you are standing on top of a mountain.  If you can’t YELL it out in one breath, then your idea is too complex.  The Volvo Brand Manager gets to yell “Safety” in one clean simple breath.   Can you do that?  
  4. Have a Good Selling Idea.  While big ideas break through, they also help you to be consistent, because you have to align your thinking to the Big Idea.  You’ll see consistency over time, across mediums–paid, earned, social and search, throughout the entire brand line up of sub brands.  Consumers will start to connect to the big idea
  5. Drive Engagement: Too many Brand Leaders get so fixated on saying their 7 messages that they figure the ability capture attention is just advertising fluff.  But it all starts with Attention.   The consumer sees 5,000 ads a day and will likely only engage in a handful.   If you don’t capture their attention, no one will remember the brand name, your main message or any other reason to believe you might have.
  6. Let the Visuals do the talking.  With so many ads, you need to have some visual that can capture the attention, link to your brand and communicate your message.   The ‘see-say’ of advertising helps the consumers brain to engage, follow along and remember.  As kids, we always love the pictures.  We still do.  
  7. Sell the solution, not your product.  People use brands to solve problems in their lives.  They’d prefer not to have that problem than have to buy your brand.  No one has ever wanted a quarter-inch drill, they just need a quarter-inch hole. 
  8. Be Relevant with the Consumer. A beloved brand finds a way to matter to those who really care. Not only the right brand promise but in the right communication of that promise. You can’t sell carpet cleaning to someone who just has hard wood floors.  
  9. Based on a consumer Insight.  Insights are not facts about your brand.  That’s just you talking AT the consumer.   Insights allow you to connect and turn the ad into a conversation.  Insights are something the consumer already knows but they didn’t realize that everyone felt that way.  Insights enable consumers to see themselves in the situation and once you do that, the consumers might then figure the brand must be for them.  
  10. Tell the story behind the brand.  Talk about your brand’s purpose.  Why did you start this brand?   What do you hope that the brand really does to help people?   Why do you get up in the morning.  

Advertising Sweet Spot when the Creative Idea drives the Attention, Branding, Communication and Stickiness

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 GET BETTER ADVERTISING, 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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Here’s how a BIG WIDE BRIEF gets you Lousy Advertising

Great Advertising comes from a Balance of Freedom and Control.  

Slide1One of the worst part about the current state of Brand Management is that most Brand Leaders allow too much freedom on the strategy, but want to have full control over the creative execution. It seems odd because Brand Leaders should be doing the opposite.  

Brand Leaders should control the Strategy and give freedom on the Execution.  

While clients are always asking agencies to see a range of work, what I think they really mean is to see a range of “creative” options, not “strategic” options.  But when you write such a BIG WIDE BRIEF, what you get is a range of strategic options that address various parts of your BIG WIDE BRIEF.  Right away, you give up control over the strategy.  

A Good Brief Should Be Brief, Not Long!  

My simple rule of thumb is that a good briefs should have:

  • one objective
  • one desired consumer response
  • one target tightly defined
  • two consumer insights to tell the story
  • one main benefit
  • one or two main reasons to believe
  • zero creative mandatories

Look at your most current brief and take your pen and stroke things off your BIG WIDE BRIEF!  Once you make your brief smaller and tighter, you’ll see how clearer things will become.  Get rid of the “just in case” lists of things. Stop putting things your boss wants. Stop putting things global wants in your brief. While putting those things into your brief might help you sleep at night, it won’t get you better work and will eventually cause you nightmares.  Before even getting to the brief stage, make sure you do all your homework with an Advertising Strategy that answers the following questions:

  1. Who do we want to sell to?  (Who is your Target Consumer?)
  2. What are we selling?  (What is your main Benefit?) and why should they believe us?  (Reason To Believe)
  3. What do we want the Advertising to do for the brand?  (Strategic Choices)
  4. What do want people to think, feel or do?  (Desired Response)
  5. What’s the long-range feeling the brand evokes (The Big Idea)

The brief should isolate the task to coming up with creative solutions to the defined strategic problem. Never use the advertising process and what ad wins the copy test to come up with your brand strategy.  The strategy frames the execution–the execution never determine the strategy.  

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Stop the BIG WIDE BRIEF and focus your Strategy

The first flaw of a BIG WIDE BRIEF is the Advertising Objective where I’m seeing lists of 3-4 objectives instead of just one objective. Right away, the brief is headed in the wrong direction. Too many briefs have both penetration AND usage frequency listed as one objective. That’s two separate strategies that leads to two targets, two messages and possibly two different media options. Here’s how different these two strategies really are:

  • Penetration ads get someone with very little experience with your brand to consider dropping their current brand to try you once and see if they like you.
  • Usage Frequency ads get someone who knows your brand already, motivating them to change their current behavior so they can fit your brand into more parts of their life.

I see this all the time. Your agency will come back with one ad that does penetration and one that drives frequency and call that a creative range. You just gave up control over the strategy and now the best ad execution decides your brand strategy.

The next flaw of the BIG WIDE BRIEF is an unfocused Target Market. I once worked with a Brand who had their target listed as:  18-65, current customers, new potential customers and employees. My first response was “why did you leave out prisoners and tourists?”.  They were worried about alienating some consumers. Isn’t alienating a synonym of Targeting?  Good advertising should alienate. I expect Beats by Dre advertising to target 17-year-old urban kid with his hat on backwards. I still want those damn headphones. I don’t feel alienated. At Beloved Brands, we recommend a maximum 5-year age gap (e.g. 35-40) in your target definition to ensure that your Ads are focused.  Many briefs have a 20-year age gap (e.g. 30-50) and that is too wide—your agency will give you one ad for 30 year olds and one for 50 year olds—and you just gave up control over the strategy one more time. When thinking of your target, you have to matter most to those who care the most about what you’re selling. It will be easier to move them towards your brand by making them feel special.  Trying to matter to everyone will just confuse the most motivated and leave them feeling like they don’t matter any more than those who don’t even care.Slide1

The third flaw of the BIG WIDE BRIEF is the Desired Consumer Response. Great advertising can only move one body part at a time: the head, the heart, the feet or the soul. Pick one. As more brands are trying to move to “emotive” advertising, you still have to remember that your brand strategy is dependent on where your brand stands now, before you can use Advertising to try to move your brand to a new place.  At Beloved Brands, we use a hypothetical Brand Love Curve to map out where the brand is now, as brands move from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally to the Beloved stage.  If you’re a NEW brand or at the INDIFFERENT stage, you should be focused on the HEAD, so that you can get Consumers to THINK differently about your brand.  It is rare that a brand can move so quickly to the love it stage (Beats by Dre might be one exception).  Put it this way, while everyone in life wants to hear the words “I love you”, it’s kinda creepy and meaningless if you hear it on the first date. If your brand is at the LIKE IT stage, focus on moving the FEET so you can drive ACTION to get consumers to buy and create a following.  If you are at the LOVE IT stage you can focus on the HEART and get current Loyal users to connect emotionally and LOVE you even more. Advertising alone cannot make a consumer love your brand–they have to love you before you tell them to love you. If you are at the BELOVED stage, focus on the SOUL and get those who love your brand to FEEL a part of the Brand. If you don’t decide what body part your ad should focus on, the agency will likely show you a range of emotional and rational ads, and once you pick the safe rational choices you’ve always picked, you’ll only be demoralizing your creative team.

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The final flaw of BIG WIDE BRIEFS is too many Messages. The current generation of Brand Leaders try to say as much as possible. I’m not always sure why, but you need to stop believing that “if we tell them more than they’ll retain more”.  No, the 100 years of marketing says that if you say too much, there is a risk that they’ll hear nothing. What if I told you that in today’s crowded world of advertising, the consumer now sees about 6000 brand messages per day?  Would you still want to give them 5 messages?  I hope not.  Narrow down your message to say ONE THING only.  When list of messages, the agency will likely give you one of those crappy “marriage of benefits” ads just to make you happy.  Or the agency will pick out ONE of the benefits and put the rest into some list that gets read within the ad. Now you’ll be happy with the list, but really you’ve just given up control of what the ONE thing is you want to say.  The only other possible solution is they just get the Voice Over talent to read the script at an even faster pace than normal.  When I was a month into my job as an ABM, at a voice edit the agency told me that our voice over talent made about $500k a year.  I said “what makes him so good?” and the account executive said “he has this unique talent to be able to speak twice as fast as other voice overs and still remain clear, so he’s in very high demand”.  That’s not a good sign for our industry, is it?  Slide1

On the flip side, the current generation of Brand Leaders are trying to control the Creative with a long list of Mandatories.  A well-written brief should have ZERO mandatories. Mandatories feel like a cover up for the insecurity of a badly written brief. The best Brand Leaders give freedom on the creative execution. At the first creative meeting, you should be surprised by the Creative work, but like it as soon as you see it.  You shouldn’t have a clue what the ad will look like. Stop the long list of Mandatories, that makes it so prescriptive the agency ends up backed into a creative corner. Why bother having an agency then?  

Use the Brief to control the Strategy and give freedom on the Execution

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 GET BETTER ADVERTISING, 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 3911Slide1

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Vote: Which Derek Jeter retirement Ad is better? Nike or Gatorade

wptv jeter video_1405433712805_6833582_ver1-1.0_640_480Amidst all these problems with athletes in the news, Derek Jeter stands out as the Joe Dimaggio of our generation. Even non-Yankee fans recognize him as a first class player.  Everyone respects him. Thirty years from now, he’ll still command a standing ovation wherever he shows up.     

Two of the major sports brands have made tribute TV ads–both taking a slightly different stance.  For Nike, it seems only true fans will get all the subtleties while the Gatorade ad is for masses–it’s almost more of an Ad about New York than baseball.  

Both are great.  Watch below and then cast your vote.  

 

Nike “RE2PECT”

Gatorade “Made in New York”

 

Vote Below: 

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 GET BETTER ADVERTISING, 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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Case Study: The Starbucks Come Back story: Losing their focus, only to regain it!!!

ray_charles_starbucks.03In 2003, Starbucks was on their first peak of their climb. It’s very likely that the corporate ego was also peaking.  “We can do anything”. But, just as they hit that peak, somehow their corporate arrogance got the best of them and they decided they are bigger than “just coffee”, so they created their own recording company, which successfully won 8 Grammy’s 2 years later. In 2006, Starbucks launched their first movie, then started partnership with William Morris to scout for music, books, films and finally Starbucks opened their own “entertainment” office in LA.  I remember when, a few agency folks marvelling and trying to convince me to follow the Starbucks lead.  The whole idea was that Starbucks had the potential to be the “third place” in people’s lives:  Home, Office and Starbucks.  The music and movies were all part of bringing that to life for Starbucks. Marketing academics were writing about it and gushing over it. That’s ok as an idea in theory, but in terms of managing a culture, Starbucks had a very hard time staying focused on what they did best:  make a great cup of coffee.  

By 2008, the lack of focus caught up with them. The most loyal consumers of Starbucks were seeing cracks in the service and quality and began choosing local establishments, who were solely focused on making a great cup of coffee.  Starbucks cut 18,000 jobs, closed 977 stores and same store sales were down 7%. Stock price falls to $7.83, down from $39.63 in 2008.  Yikes.

sbux_fallenThe Starbucks brand was in complete free fall. I remember doing a speech, right at the height of the Starbucks collapse and very few people considered it a beloved brand.  I was almost in shock.  And, about half the room figured it wouldn’t be around in 10 years. People were seriously starting to wonder “is this the next Benetton?”  (the brand that drank and believed in their own Kool Aid)

In 2009, Starbucks re-focused on what they do best: COFFEE.  They had no choice.  Every turnaround story has to start with “so what do we do best?” and then eliminate everything else. They closed every store for a day of re-training the barista. A brilliant move to tell most loyal consumers: “we know we messed up, but we’re going to get it back”.  But more importantly, it told the culture of Starbucks that the most important thing we do is make a great cup of coffee.  That barista is essential to our brand. It all starts with that. Starbucks began to innovate, but again it was focused going deeper around their COFFEE, with broader line of coffee, pastries, accessories sandwiches. No more movies or music.  All of a sudden, they were focused.  27sbux.600

Following the comeback story, by 2014, Starbucks sales are up 58% versus 2009, five-year 10% CAGR. Gross Margins are back up to healthy 55% range from a low of 28%. The current Starbucks stock price at $75, a $10K investment back in 08 would get you $95,800 today. The crucial lesson for Starbucks is the lack of focus cost them dearly in providing what it was that made them famous:  a great cup of coffee.  Yes, they can be that third place in people’s lives….as long as the coffee is good. 

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Focus is essential to Strategy 

The only way to win in strategy is when your gains exceed your effort—you to get more, than you put in. That starts with focus.  Every Brand has limited resources (financial, time, effort and alliances) against endless opportunistic choices to make (target, message, strategy and activities). Strategy starts with making a choice, where you will apply your limited resources, against the pressure points you know you can win and breakthrough, so that you can gain something bigger than the point itself.

Focus makes you matter most to those who care the most. Don’t blindly target consumers:  target the most motivated.  Focusing your limited resources on those consumers with the highest motivation and  propensity to buy what you are selling will deliver the highest return on investment.  In a competitive category, no one brand can do it all: brands must be better, different or cheaper to survive. Giving the consumer too many messages will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique. Trying to be everything to everyone is the recipe for being nothing. 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. 

When you focus, 5 things happen to your Brand.

  1. 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.  
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 

Focus starts with knowing what you do best and stick with it 

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on HOW TO 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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The biggest factor in getting to great advertising….is the client.

If you are a Brand Leader who struggles with advertising, you know how hard it is. I’m asked all the time, what is it that makes one Brand Leader good at advertising and another not so good? 

Simply put, great Brand Leaders are able to consistently get great advertising that drives towards their objective into the market, and equally able to keep bad advertising that does nothing for them off the air.

Some Brand Leaders blame themselves, almost surrendering to the idea of: “I’m more strategic type of marketer, and not that good at advertising”.  But I hope you don’t quit on yourself, because being good at Advertising takes experience, practice, leadership, feedback and a willingness to adjust. You can get better, if you really want to.  Slide1Some Brand Leaders blame their agency, and even fire their agency. But from my view, an OK agency can do great work on a great client. But a great agency can fail miserably with a bad client. Most clients fail to realize that the role of the Brand Leader is the most important factor in getting great ads. 

If you knew that how you showed up as a Client would get you better advertising, do you think you would actually show up differently? 

At creative meetings, do you stay big picture, avoid getting into details? When giving direction, do you avoid giving your own solutions?  When you gave your agency a brief, you put them in a box.  Now you should use your feedback as a way to put them in a new box ,a modified version of the box you created with the brief you gave them. Agencies don’t want your solutions, they just want your problems. The best agencies are problem solvers who are in the box thinkers.  As a great Brand Leader, your role is always to give them a box they can solve.

The best advertising comes from a very tight Brand strategy.  How tight is your brief?  

Do you stay focused on ONE target, ONE strategy, ONE benefit behind ONE big idea? Avoid the “just in case list” where you sneak “one more thing” onto the brief.  Narrow the Target market and tell their story with engaging insights.  Start with the desired consumer response before deciding what your brand should say.  Develop a testable Brand Concept before the brief so you know the strategy works with consumers, isolating the creative as the only thing you need to figure out.  Slide1

Are you one of the FAVORITE clients of your agency? 

As a Brand Leader, your role is inspire everyone to WANT to work on your brand, never treat them like they HAVE to work on your business. I know you pay the agency, so you might think that motivates them right away.  Not quite.  Do you meet the creative team before the first creative meeting to connect, align them with your vision and inspire them to push for great work? My guess is you don’t. You wait till that first creative meeting, and get introduced to the people who have been secretly working on your brand for the past few weeks. Are you the type of client to take creative risks, and be willing to be different to stand out?  Great advertising is a balance of control and freedom.  You should control the strategy and give freedom on the creative, but somehow the reverse happens.  Uncertain Brand Leaders give freedom on the strategy, yet they come into the advertising process with a pre-determined look and feel.   

If you meet resistance to GREAT advertising, even from your boss, are you the Brand Leader that is willing to fight anyone in the way? 

Every great ad I’ve worked on, there was almost a breaking point.  Whenever I fondly think of my old ads, I always smile when I think of that “near breaking point” that we got past.  As the Brand Leader you have to be the one to fight for great work and maneuver through that near breaking point. Your agency will take notice that you are that type of leader and they’ll want to work on your brand, willing to give you their best work. Do you resist approving Advertising that is “just OK” and “safe”?   What signal do you think it sends everyone involved? I believe that you have to LOVE your advertising, and never settle for OK.  Somewhere along the line, if you don’t love it, you’ll likely just give in. And then everything fails.  And you start again.  

If you knew that how you showed up as a Client was the biggest factor in getting better advertising, do you think you would actually show up differently?

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 GET BETTER ADVERTISING, 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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Is it time we admit that the Apple BRAND is better than the Apple PRODUCT?

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Apple is clearly the brand of our generation. In our house, we have an iMac desktop, 2 iPads, 3 iPhones, and two MacBooks.  I love Apple. But this past spring, as my phone contract expired, I started to wonder if I get the iPhone 5S or wait for the iPhone 6.  I was a free agent, and started to look around. I looked at the Android, but like many “Apple fans”, I viewed them as the competition, like a NY Yankee fan might view the Boston Red Sox. The more I dug in, the more I realized the Android phone was quite better than the iPhone: bigger screen, faster processor, better camera.  So I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Whaaaat? That’s right. A Samsung. I felt like a cult member who snuck out of the compound one night and drooled when I saw the Samsung phone. I could see the Galaxy was light years ahead of my iPhone.  Now that I see the iPhone 6, I’m glad I bought the Samsung instead of waiting.  

Yes, the Apple iPhone 6 news kinda fizzled, but does that matter anymore?

I’m no tech expert, but the iPhone 6 feels a very incremental technology. I’m sure it does a few things I’m not aware of or could appreciate. Financial analysts were so bored by the launch, many downgraded the stock. Yes, the Apple stock price is extremely high, but maybe it’s time for the stock to stop living and dying based on the next great launch.  And maybe, it’s time for us to realize that Apple has shifted from a product driven brand to an idea driven brand.  The real reason people buy Apple is the BIG IDEA that “We make technology so SIMPLE, everyone can be part of the future”. With Apple, it has become less about how we think about the product and more how we feel about the brand. While Samsung has a better product than they do a brand, Apple now has a better brand than they do a product.  Samsung can’t get past talking features instead of benefits, offering almost zero emotional connection beyond the product.  Apple has created such an intensely tight bond with their consumers, they are more powerful than your average monopoly. Apple uses that power with the very consumers who love them, against competitors who try to imitate them and through every type of media or potential key influencer in the market. Below we have mapped out the Brand Strategy Road Map for the the Apple brand.  

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Apple isn’t really a technology leader, and likely never was. Yes, Apple had an amazing decade of new products from 2001-2011 that gave us the iPod, iTunes, Macbook Air, iPhone and iPad, but Apple is 
a quick follower who figure out the mistakes the technology leaders make and then cleans them up for the mass market. Apple exploits the fact that the first to market technologies are so badly launched (mp3 players, on-line music and tablets) the average consumer never really sees them, leaving the perception that Apple is the innovator. Apple’s product strategy is: “We bring technology that is simple and consumer friendly across a broad array of electronics products. Products have simple stylish designs, user-friendly functionality, convenience and speed.”  Apple’s brand story, told through great advertising like “Mac vs PC” is: “Technology shouldn’t be intimidating or frustrating. We make it simple enough so you can be engaged right away, do more and get more, with every Apple product you are use.”   As an example below, the  beautiful ads over the past year are less about the product features and more about how the brand makes you feel.  

 

The most Beautiful Apple Product Apple is now their P&L statement

Maybe we just need to relax on these Apple launches and admire Apple’s Profit and Loss statements.  Apple is going to sell about 80 million iPhone 6’s and I bet the iPhone 6 will be under many Christmas trees this year. Stores continue to be packed–it’s tough to even get an appointment.  The Apple retail stores have the highest sales per square foot, almost twice the #2 store, which is Tiffany’s selling diamond rings.  

Apple is now a huge mass market corporate brand, with a market capitalization of $600 billion, 3 times the value of companies like Coke, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer and IBM.  Apple has moved from the challenger type brand to the “king of the castle” brand. Back in the 1980s, IBM was the “drive the BMW, wear a blue suit with polished shoes” type brand, while Apple was “comfortable in your VW Bug, tee-shirt and sandals” brand. Apple was the alternative, anti-corporate, artist. But that’s changed. As much as Apple fought off and won against the corporate arrogant brands like IBM, Microsoft and Sony, they’ve now become that very type of corporate brand.

At Beloved Brands, we believe the more loved a brand is by it’s consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand can be.  The best example of this model is the Apple brand. 

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In researching the Apple brand, and as a true brand geek like me, when I opened up their P&L statement I almost gushed:  I drooled over the compound annual growth rate, stared at the margin % and was in awe of how their fixed marketing spend stayed constant as the sales went through the roof.  It’s the P&L that every Brand Leader wants to leave for the next guy.  

Apple Brand > Apple Product

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 the programs we offer, 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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The best advertising comes when Brand Leaders control the strategy and give freedom on the execution.

Control the Strategy with a Tight Brief

Brand Leaders take pride in being strategic thinkers. Yet, why when it comes to Advertising, do they throw strategic thinking out the window and become masters of execution? To get great advertising, Brand Leaders should control the strategy and give freedom on the execution. Yet I see them giving up control over the strategy all the time. A good tight brief has one problem, one objective, one target and one main message.  As soon as you write a broad brief that goes beyond that, you’ve just given up control over the strategy.

  • If your brief has a broad target market, some ads will naturally fit younger and some will fit older. But it’s unlikely one ad will fit both targets. A good brief should have no more than a 5 year age gap on the target. 
  • If your brief has two benefits, the agency will come back with one ad for the first benefit and another ad for the second benefit. I hope that’s not what you wanted when you picked two benefits. Or worse yet, you’ll get the “marriage of both benefits” type ads and those are usually very lame. A good brief should have only one benefit!!!!
  • If your brief has two objectives, it will fail at both. So many briefs I see advertising objective say: “get new users and get current users to use more” (penetration and frequency).  That’s impossible in one ad. Getting new users is getting competitive users to THINK differently about your brand so they cast aside their current brand to try you just once. Yet, driving usage frequency is a message to those familiar with your brand and trying to get them to FEEL differently enough to change their behavior. I would argue it’s impossible to achieve these two things with one ad. If I’m wrong, send me an ad that does both. If you can’t find that ad, then go to your brief now, and if you have both objectives, strike out one and your brief will get better. 

Your broad brief, which might help you sleep at night, just squandered your control over the strategy. And soon you’ll be having nightmares. The role of the brief is to create a nice tight “box” that defines the problem, objective, target and main message. Since the best agency talent are “in the box” thinkers who solve problems, the best brief gives them a “box” to solve. Briefs with multiple objectives or many main benefits send the signal to agencies that you aren’t quite sure and want the agency to pick the strategy. Briefs with a long list of mandatories sends the signal that even though we don’t know the strategy, we do think we know what we want the execution should look like. A great brief is tight enough that it doesn’t even need mandatories.  

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Give freedom on execution to your Agency

Being a Brand Leader is a very odd job: you don’t do anything and you don’t really know anything. You don’t make the product, don’t sell the product and don’t make the ads. You just make decisions. However, marketing seems to attract know-it-all types that love to tell everyone what to do. I was once one of those know-it-all Brand Managers so I know that type well. And yet, only when I figured out that not knowing anything, and not doing anything put me in a more powerful position to make better decisions did I master the art of Brand Management. If the agency is a problem solver, then you are a problem giver. Think of it like great therapy. You just spill your problems and others come up with solutions and you decide on which solution works best. The only thing you have to do well, is make decisions. What a great job.  

At every stage of advertising, Brand Leaders really have 3 options: 1) approve the work 2) reject the work or 3) change the work.Slide1

From what I see, Brand Leaders rarely approve the work outright. Even though the agency would love it, it is almost unrealistic to think they could perfect the ad without any challenge from the marketer. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few ads in my career that required very little feedback. It likely means we nailed the brief. The reality is that great work is usually made collaboratively with both agency and client.  

On the flip side, Brand Leaders are sometimes too uncertain to reject the work completely. They tend to keep things alive too long. I remember on my first ad, I kept being so passive on this one idea that I hated. I never rejected it fully and the agency kept coming up with new ways to fix that ad. Here’s my advice: if you don’t love the ad, you’re not doing anyone a favor by keeping it alive. Great advertising takes a fight internally, and many times if you don’t love the work, then you won’t fight for it. Explain why you hate it and if that creates a new problem for the agency, you might be surprised at a new solution they come up with.  

It seems that most times, Brand Leaders choose the option to change the work. Do you think that’s your role in the process?  I see too many Brand Leader showing up ready to pounce on the work with a list of changes, rather than digesting it and making decisions on how to make the work better.  They’ll say: “make the lead a woman instead of a man, move the pack shot earlier, get rid of that line and change this line.” What I don’t understand is that If you didn’t feel talented enough to come up with an ad in the first place, why are you now talented enough to do something even harder: to change the work.  I’d challenge brand leaders to stop coming up with solutions and rather start finding ways to frame their problems, so they keep the agency engaged and challenged.

Being the Brand Leader on the hot seat is not easy.  

Until you gain experience in the hot seat, it is highly stressful, scary and uncertain. It can feel like your brain is spinning,so many thoughts are going around in your head and you feel pressure to say the right thing. 

Slide1Try to stop spinning by asking yourself four key questions:

  1. Do I love it? How passionate are you? If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it? If you “sorta like” it, then it will be “sorta ok” in the end. But if you love it, you’ll go the extra mile and make it amazing. Would you be proud of this as your legacy?
  2. What is my gut reaction? What’s your immediate reaction when you reach for your instincts? Relax, slow yourself down enough to soak it in, right in the meeting. It’s easier to quickly reject out of fear than find what your gut really says. Many times, instincts get hidden away because of the job.
  3. Is it on strategy? Is the Ad an expression of what you wrote in your strategy documents? Use a process to help frame things in your mind, so you can evaluate it past how you feel. The tool I recommend is the ABC’s (attention, branding, communication, stickiness) which helps to give you something to ground yourself. Take your time with this thinking.
  4. Does the ad have long-term potential? Is it BIG IDEA, you can see lasting for 5-10 years, going across various mediums (mass, on-line, in store), capable of speaking of the entire product line up, Think about leaving a legacy beyond your time in the role, which forces you to think of campaign-ability.

When you slow it down, you’ll start to see ideas and not executions.You’ll be able to sort through what’s working and not working for your brand. Next time, instead of providing solutions to your agency with a “list of changes we want” I’d challenge you to give the agency a problem with a “list of challenges to the work”. In essence, if the original brief created a “box” for the creative team to figure out “in the box” solutions, then use  your feedback to create a “modified box” for the agency to solve, not a check list of changes you want on the ad. Never be afraid to slow it down, think it through, see where it is going or where it could go. Sometimes when we slow down our thinking, then the actions actually go faster. Great Brand Leaders think with strategy, and act with instincts.

The role of the client might be the most important factor in getting great ads. An OK agency can do great work on a great client. But a great agency will fail with a bad client. So be the best client you can be.

If you knew that being a better client got you better advertising, would you actually be able to show up better? 

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 GET BETTER ADVERTISING, 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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Can you re-train your Brain to be more Strategic?

StrategyThe phrase “you need to be more strategic” gets said daily in the corporate world. Everyone seems to proclaim they are a “strategic thinker” on their LinkedIn profile. People get promoted because they are strategic and held back in their careers at a given level because they aren’t strategic enough. Yet, has your boss ever had a real conversation about what it means to be more strategic?  Or do they just say it and you just take it?  Have you ever received training on being more strategic?  I spent 20 years at Fortune 500 companies and I never received any training, tips or feedback on being more strategic. Yet, we keep saying “strategic” all the time. 

So what is a “strategic thinker”?    

To me, the difference between a strategic thinker and a non-strategic thinker is whether you see questions first or answers first.  Both offer extreme value to a brand.  

  • Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions. They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planning who can see connections.
  • Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions. They get to answers quickly, and get frustrated in delays. They believe doing something is better than doing nothing at all. They opt for action over thinking. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. They get frustrated by strategic thinkers.

Great Brand Leaders are a bit of a chameleon, able to balance both strategy and execution. While pure strategic people make great consultants, I wouldn’t want them running my brand. They’d keep analyzing things to death, without taking action. Every day there would be more strategies. And while tactical people get stuff done, is it the right stuff?  I want someone running my brand who is both strategic and non-strategic, almost equally so. Great Brand Leaders can talk with both types, one minute debating investment choices and then at a TV edit deciding on option A or B. Great Brand Leaders think with strategy but act with instincts.  

I think strategic thinking is a natural state, but is challenged or destroyed through our education system. Every test in school has a right and wrong answer, very little room for options or opinion. In the classroom, there is pressure to give the right answer quickly–almost without thinking about it. Teachers grill you with simple questions, and you never get to ask them deep questions. But really, we should teach students to slow down their thinking, encourage asking great questions instead of just giving simple answers, teach them how to map out scenarios to figure out the impact of potential actions.  

We need Brand Leaders who can slow down, so they can decide what to do, before they do it.  As Yogi Berra once said “if you don’t know where you are going, you might not get there”.  

There are six elements essential to good Strategy:  Vision, Focus, Opportunity, Early Win, Leverage, Gateway.  

  1. Vision: an aspirational stretch goal for the future, linked to a well-defined purpose.  A good vision should push you, and scare you a little, but excite you a lot.  
  2. Focus: alignment of your limited resources to a distinct strategic point you wish to penetrate, that creates positive momentum on a pathway towards your vision.
  3. Opportunity: something is happening in the market, making speed of execution matter, as a potential strategic opening gets taken by someone else or the opportunity may close.
  4. Early Win: break through point against where you put your focus, and you see a shift in momentum towards your vision.  It offers potential proof to everyone that this strategy will work, helping to rally others–the team, agency and even your boss.   
  5. Leverage: ability to turn the early win into creating a momentum with an even greater force of pressure, that leads to the tipping point to something bigger.
  6. Gateway: realization point where you see a shift in positional advantage or power that allows you to believe your vision is achievable.

Many Brand Leaders seem to fear focusing, yet focus is essential for strategy to work for you to get more from it, than what you put into it.  I once had a Brand Leader list their target as “18-65, current customers, potential customers and employees” and I asked “what about prisoners and tourists?”.  I constantly see Brands try to say 5 or 6 things in their message.  Brand Leaders have 74 things on their to-do lists. When we realize that every Brand has limited resources (financial, time, effort and alliances) they can apply against an endless list of opportunistic choices (target, message, strategy and activities) do we start to make choices.  Strategy is really where you apply your limited resources against pressure points you know you can break through, to gain something bigger than the sum of the resources you put into it.

Slide1All the great military leaders believe in the power of focus.  Napoleon had two basic strategies:  attack their strength first by over-whelming your opponent or attack their weakness first, forcing your opponent to use their strength to defend, dispersing the resources of their strength in doing so.  His choices depended on opportunity. His writings, still read by military experts around the world, puts emphasis on focus, economies of resources and breaking through. Brands Leaders can learn from the principles of warfare.  

Focus makes you matter most to those who care the most. Don’t blindly target consumers:  target the most motivated.  Focusing your limited resources on those consumers with the highest motivation and  propensity to buy what you are selling will deliver the highest return on investment.  In a competitive category, no one brand can do it all: brands must be better, different or cheaper to survive. Giving the consumer too many messages will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique. Trying to be everything to everyone is the recipe for being nothing.  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. 

When you focus, 5 things happen to your brand: 

  1. 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.  
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 

Case Study:  Starbucks loses Focus by going after entertainment

A great case study in a brand who lost their focus is Starbucks back in 2003, as they took their corporate arrogance and large following to enter the music business. Sure they could hire great music people, but that’s not the core of the brand–either internally or externally. They lost focus on what they do really well: sell coffee in an atmosphere that helps you escape your hectic life. By 2008, people were wondering if the Starbucks bubble had begun to burst. Had they lost it? Starbucks closed stores and laid people off. Would it be the next Benneton? But the Brand used this point to successfully re-focus and build around Coffee. They closed every store for hours to re-train their barista, come out with new coffee flavours and built innovation around the coffee routine with pastries, snacks and sandwiches.  Since the re-focus (see case study below), sales are up 58% over 5 years, and margins are back up to a highly respectable 55% levels.  Slide1

Transforming your Focus into a Gateway to something bigger

Once you break through, it becomes about going beyond the break through.  Too many pure strategists over look the EARLY WIN, and think of strategy as just vision and strategic choices. But they’ve never run a Brand, and they don’t know how many others you need to keep motivated and aligned. You want that Early Win, to kick-start some momentum–slice off part of the business or population segment or have your message connect. You need this to get everyone buying into the strategy. The LEVERAGE is when you start to use the positional advantage or power the early break through has given you. Without this, the early win becomes the only win, and it’s a hollow strategy. Believe in your new power and use the power gained to push and transform your wins into even bigger wins. As you go through the process, it’s important that you not get distracted from achieving the GATEWAY that lines up to your vision. It’s easy to get tempted by new opportunities that your break through has given you, but you have to stay focused on your vision.

Case Study:  D-Day focuses the entire war effort on capturing a beach.

At a crucial point of World War 2, while Germany was fighting a war on two fronts (Russia and Britain), the Allied Forces planned D-Day for 2 years and joined in full force (Great Britain, US, Canada, Australia) to focus all their attention on one beach, on one day. Prior to the attack, there was debate, do we attack in one place that could be penetrated or in multiple spots where the Germans could would have to fight many battles?  The smart decision started with focus. If we look at D Day using the six elements of good strategy, we can see how they won:

  1. Vision: Win World War II, with a goal to re-claim Europe and stop Germany. Spread democracy.
  2. Focus: All of the Allied forces of 156,000 soldiers, landing on the Beaches of Normandy on the morning of June 6th, 1944.
  3. Opportunity: Planned excessively, debated options, looked for beaches unguarded by Germans. Russia was attacking from the East weakening/distracting Germany.
  4. Early Win: Despite heavy casualties, the Allies were able to capture the beaches and within 5 days of D Day, the allied forces were able to put 325,000 soldiers on the beaches of Normandy.
  5. Leverage: Re-claiming Paris, pushing back the German Army, turned the momentum into the Allied Forces side. The allies were able to take the Positional Power and shift it to where Germany now defending on their own territory.
  6. Gateway: A year later, the allies defeated the German Army in Berlin. The US was now able to focus and fight the Pacific war and defeat Japan.

d-dayIf we were to write a Brand Plan for D-Day, here’s what it would start to look like:  

  • Vision:Win World War II, spread ideals of democracy.
  • Goals: Re-claim Europe, maintain troops.
  • Key Issues: How do we turn the tide in the war effort in Europe? Where would the best attack point to get on to continental Europe? What are the defense technology investments needed?
  • Strategy: pin-pointed attack to gain a positional power on continental Europe.
  • Tactic:  D-Day, taking all our troops and attack the Beaches of Normandy to get back on mainland Europe and battle Germany on an equal footing. 

Case Study: Avril connects with her core audience through free mall concerts.

A great example of strategy that might not look like strategy on the surface was Avril Lavigne’s free mall concerts.  Back in 2005, Avril’s career was flat, after some early success, which is a normal path for young musicians. avrilTo kick off her album, she did a series of free mall concerts—and was criticized as desperate. She was desperate and not everyone understood the logic.  Let’s use the six elements of good strategy to assess the Avril re-launch:

  1. Vision: Be a pop superstar again, #1 album, sold out concerts.
  2. Focus: Malls are exactly where her target (11-17 female) hangs out, allowing her to focus all her energy on her core target. Positioned as giving back to her fans. 
  3. Opportunity: First star ever to give free concerts. She had a new album coming out. There were still record stores in malls.
  4. Early Win: She attracted 5k screaming 13-year-olds per mall which created an early win among her most loyal of fans: those who loved and adored her. Local news covered the story giving her added exposure. Everyone (mom and kids) was happy with the “free” gesture.
  5. Leverage: She was able to leverage the good will and energy to get these loyal fans to go buy her album in the mall record stores which helped her album debut at #1 on the charts.
  6. Gateway: Everyone knows the charts are the gateway to the bigger mass audience–more radio play, more iTunes downloads and more talk value. The comeback complete.

Avril’s strategy holds up very strong.  Not a surprise because Madonna used this same strategy for years, except replace malls for teenie-boppers with London night clubs for 20-somethings where she would drop her songs and even make random appearances.  If you were to write the Avril Brand Plan, here’s what it might look like:

  • Vision:  Recording Super Star
  • Goals:  New Album Sales, increase popularity, new recording contract
  • Key Issue:  How do we drive album sales for a slumping Avril? 
  • Strategy:  Reconnect with core teen fans to create momentum to trigger album sales
  • Tactic:  Free Mall tour to get most loyal fans to reconnect and buy the new album.

Case Study: Starbucks refocuses by building around the Coffee routine.

trbghzsds183Starbucks experienced tremendous growth through the 80s and 90s, mainly because of the their coffee. Starbucks quickly become a life ritual in the morning to wake you up. Following their “hobby” (case study above) into the entertainment field in 2003-2008, they hit the skids and faced some trouble that caused them to re-trench and focus on building around their coffee ritual again.  They rebuilt everything back around the coffee routine.  They closed their stores for an entire day to re-train every barista.  They created snacks and pastries to gain more share of requirements around coffee, launched sandwiches to stretch the coffee routine to lunch and created new versions of coffee to deepen love affair with the most loyal users.  Let’s use the six elements of good strategy to see how they did this.

  • Vision: Cherished meeting place for all your quick service food needs.  
  • Focus:  Build around the coffee ritual, but look to shift the coffee routine to both breakfast and lunch. They built a broader portfolio of products–refreshing drinks and delicious deserts, snacks and sandwiches around these two time-slots.
  • Opportunity: Starbucks had the under-utilized bricks and mortar of their restaurants going almost un-used past 11am.  Driving a broader portfolio would own more share of requirements, while moving the ritual to lunch allowed them to drive higher same store sales from the same real estate investment.  
  • Early Win:  Starbucks launched series of new products that made Starbucks seem big on innovation, including sandwiches, wraps, pastries and cookies, all with high quality and successfully connecting with the most loyal Starbucks fans. 
  • Leverage: The leverage point was turning a coffee routine into a breakfast/lunch routine, expanding the life ritual of Starbucks so that it’s now a broad-based meeting place for breakfast and a light lunch. 
  • Gateway: Starbucks is no longer seen as just for coffee, but rather an escape at any point in the day. Most Starbucks are now open till Midnight.  Sales have grown double-digit each of the past 5 years and the Starbucks brand is one of the most revered and beloved with consumers.  

If you were to write the Starbucks, here’s how it might look;

  • Vision: Cherished meeting place for all your quick service food needs
  • Goals: Increase Same store sales, greater share of requirements from Starbucks loyalists
  • Key Issue:  How do we drive significant growth of same store sales?
  • Strategy:  Move Starbucks loyalists to lunch with an expanded lunch menu.
  • Tactic:  Exotic refreshing coffee choices, light lunch menu, increase desert offerings.

Here’s a checklist to see if your strategy is fully mapped out and not left to some vague chance of success.

  • An end in mind vision, pathway that has milestones, specific goals for your program.
  • Opportunity that creates an opening for your brand to quickly take advantage of. 
  • Pin-pointed focus of your resources (effort, investment, time, partners)
  • An early win as the breakthrough point.
  • Game changing Leverage point, where there is a change in positional power and you’re able to turn a small win into something big.
  • Gateway to something bigger, defined as a win for the brand that translates into an increase in power or value.

Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions.

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 BE THINK STRATEGICALLY, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

At Beloved Brands, we make Brands better and 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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Do you think FAST or think SLOW? Here’s why Brand Leaders need do both.

facebook adWhen I ask a room of Brand Leaders “do you think fast or think slow?” what do you think the prevailing answer would be. Like them, your immediate answer would be they think fast.  There’s a bias in marketing that we are supposed to think fast, so it’s only natural to say “yes, I’m a fast thinker”.  We even have a cultural bias to believe that fast thinkers get ahead in life, and slow ones fall behind.  From the 2011 book by Daniel Kahneman “Thinking, Fast and Slow” he talks about the two different ways that the brain forms thoughts:  

  • Fast Thinkers:  instinctual, automatic, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious
  • Slow Thinkers:  logical, deeper thinking, effortful, logical, calculating, conscious

We all do a bit of both fast and slow, but we each have a natural disposition for one lead style. I’ve seen enough Myers Briggs results to realize that ENTJ (Extraversion, iNtuition, Thinking, Judgment)  is the prevailing result for Brand Leaders.  ENTJ_meme3.357224143_stdAnd if you are ENTJ, it likely means you’re a slow logical thinker, but a quick decision maker. Even though you are willing to voice your opinion quickly, you should really be taking the time to think things through.  When you try to go too fast, you’re not at your best. As a Brand Leader, you’re also likely surrounded by fast thinkers (from your ad agency, sales colleagues, R&D people and even your boss looking for a decision) and that puts you into a choice:  do you speed up for them or do you slow them down?  

Are you a Strategic Thinker?

Of course you’ll say yes, but are you really?  Everyone has it on their LinkedIn profile.  But not everyone in marketing is strategic.  From what I’ve seen, most are tactical executors, not deep conceptual thinkers.  

Strategic Thinkers see questions before they see solutions. They map out a range of “what if” decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planners who can see connections. They use knowledge and judgment about the long-term health and wealth of the brand.  I’m a strategic person, and pathetic at trivia questions but can stay up all night debating concepts of politics, religion and of course Marketing.

Non-Strategic Thinker see answers before they see questionsThey get to answers quickly, and will get frustrated in delays. They opt for action over thinking, believing that doing something is better than doing nothing. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. They can be frustrated by strategic thinkers. They use instincts and driven about the short-term health and sales of the brand.

The Best Brand Leaders balance strategy and execution

If you think too much, you’re dead.  You might miss an opportunity.  Or worse yet, you might over think it.  So the simple advice is  don’t go too fast, but don’t go too slowly. You are running a live business, not some a Socrates major laying on the grass of a University.  

There are three main areas of conflict for strategic thinkers:  Action, Sales Team and your Agencies.  

  1. Your brand in is in a live market so there is a propensity for Action.  We are faced with a problem and so everyone immediately turns to you and asks “what is your solution?” Never be that Ready, Fire Aim type of leader.But your action must have the proper focus, so that you are not just spreading your resources (investment, people and time) randomly, but rather well thought against what will provide the biggest return. As the Brand Leader, you can’t just react to everything, take your time and think things through. 
  2. Strategic thinkers can have a conflict with Sales people.  Sales people are no less strategic, but they place ahigher value in relationship than many marketers.  In fact, they may be strategizing about their relationship with Wal-Mart instead of your individual brand. They have to work within the needs and opinions of their buyers and balance the shorter term risk with the longer term strategic gains. Many Sales Leaders focus on the next six months, while Brand Leaders focus on six months and beyond.  Sitting down with sales people and finding the middle ground will find a mutual benefit to both. Most marketers believe that everything is relatively negotiable, while most sales people see everything as negotiated.  
  3. Brand Leaders have a conflict with agencies.  Agencies tend to be more emotional than Brand Leaders and value pride in their work, more than the brand leader—Agency people want to make work they can be show off.  Not only do they show it off for pride, they show it off for more business. Also, agencies are filled with fast thinkers, who value instincts and feelings ahead of pure logic.  When I ask Brand Leaders “how liked are you by your agency” they find it an odd question because you feel you are paying them so you should get good service and they should be courting you. Here’s a secret I learned mid way through my career:  the more emotionally engaged you are with your agency, the better the work will be.  Yes, you can replace your current agency, but you’ll just run into it again with your next agency.  You should want to be one of your agency’s favorite brands to work on.  

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The best athletes in team sports have an ability to slow the game down. Larry Bird in basketball, Joe Montana in Football or Wayne Gretzky in hockey were never the most gifted athletes in their sport, but were given extra time and space by those defending them because they slowed the game down and then made quick decisions.  They were playing Chess while everyone was playing Checkers.  You need to find a way to slow the game down, so that you can make quick decisions.  

Slow it Down so you can move faster

When we are in a heated debate with our teenage kids, it’s natural to say something inflammatory to make a point. And I find myself saying “did that comment make this go faster or take longer?”  Considering now that my kids are debating my inflammatory comment, I know it took longer.  If only in that moment, I could think things through slower, then it would go faster.  But my only solution to teenagers is wait for them to turn 22.  

Here’s my advice on how to slow things down a bit, so that you can move things faster.

  • Find your own thinking time: About 90% of my best ideas were thought of in a car, not at a desk. I’d try to block off time in my busy calendar just to think. Sounds crazy but you need it. I’d go for walks at lunch or a drive to get away from it all. The more I did, the more I realized that my first thoughts weren’t always my best thoughts. Steve Jobs was notorious for going for a walk with someone. Instincts are not always at the tip of your tongue. You need to find a way to reach your subconscious mind, where your best thoughts might be. 
  • Proactively, do the deep thinking BEFORE the decision time comes: During the quiet periods, I would dig deep into the analytics, no matter what my level. I keep telling everyone that at every level, I wrote a monthly summary report on my brands, forcing me to stay on top of the brand. Every six months, I’d answer six simple questions: 1) where are we? 2) why are we here? 3) where could we be? 4) how do we get there? and 5) what are we doing to get there? Usually it was 2 or 3 bullets per question but it allowed me to stay planful yet flexible, knowing yet ready and on top of my game. You know it’s going slow motion because of how much thinking you do beyond the meeting, but everyone else thinks you’re moving fast. 
  • Next time you’re in a meeting, spend your time and energy asking great questions, not giving great answers: As the Brand Leader you are the thinker and decision maker on the team, surrounded by subject matter experts who know everything. The big secret about Brand Leaders we don’t always want to share is we don’t really know anything about anything. And that puts you in a very powerful position. I used to go into every meeting believing I’m the least knowledgeable person in the room, which is an advantage because I’m the one asking questions, not giving answers. Not only is it respectful to your experts, when you shift to this type of model, you’ll see that it’s a powerful way to move the group of experts. As a consultant, I’m paid for answers, and while my answers are good, my questions are even better.
  • Connect with your the “people” at your agency:  I bet you wait till your first creative meeting to have your first conversation with the creative people. What I found more useful was to have lunch with the creative team the day after the brief was released, mainly to give them a chance to ask any questions, but really just to get to know them. Keep it informal and relaxed.  At every stage of the production, talk to the experts, not with directives, but just to get to know them.  They’ll work harder for someone who talks to them?   Do you talk to the editor?  No one ever does. I did. And then when I needed to try something that my agency didn’t think could be done, I’d hear “let me give it a shot” by the editor. When you are your agencies favorite client, things go so easily and by slowing things down, it goes faster. Send thank you notes at each major stage, pride notes at each major win, and encouragement notes at each major bump. They show you’re human and emotional. 
  • Use THREE different types of Feedback for agencies: When giving feedback to your agencies, map out three levels of thinking time for the feedback and tell them ahead of time what you plan on doing:
      1. feedback during the presentation which is just pure gut reaction–it doesn’t mean much at all
      2. feedback following the presentation which is just your big picture instinct
      3. feedback 24 hours later which is well-thought through and detail oriented.
  • I’m not sure why the agency gets 3 weeks to come up with ideas but they want your instant feedback right away. Remember, agencies are fast thinkers and brand Leaders are slow thinkers.  Use the 3 levels of feedback to your advantage. Don’t mix the three levels of feedback up and be clear with everyone as to the expected process. Build it into the time line.  If agencies are smart, they’d present work creative ideas on a Thursday and allow their client the Friday to talk it through with the team and the weekend to think it over before getting final feedback on the Monday. You’ll get better ads if you let your clients think things through.    
  • Proactively Meet your sales people regularly, not just when there’s a problem or conflict.  Get to know their needs and come to them proactively with solutions that are a win for them, their customer and your brand.   I used to have quarterly lunches with each major account lead and just listen to their issues they were having.  It put me in a position of preparedness for when I needed to take action. 

By the way, I’m a quick-thinking creative INTP, so I needed to train myself to slow things down and do the thinking to go beyond just using my instincts, especially in a corporate setting where risk is avoided.  As Abe Lincoln said “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

 

You will move faster if you take your time, slow it down and think.

 

Here’s a presentation on Strategic Thinking:

To read more about the Brand Leadership Center, click on this link: Brand Leadership Center  At Beloved Brands we offer a unique learning session on Strategic Thinking. Everyone in marketing thinks they are strategic. But what is it that makes someone strategic and how can you use that thinking in the role of a Brand Leader. With our Strategic Thinking program, Brand Leaders will learn how the elements of strategic thinking–focus, early win, leverage and gateway. They’ll look at this from a consumer/customer view, competitive strategy as well as visionary strategy. Through workshop breakouts, we’ll be able to try it out on their own business with hands-on coaching to help them improve their own strategies.  Here’s the outline:

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