How to lead the brand planning process

[sg_popup id=”9″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]The best brand plan process involves a lot of analytics and thinking before you begin crafting the brand plan. Brand PlanYou should start with a deep-dive business review, that can set up a dig in to find the key issues on the brand. From there, you can revisit and define your brand positioning. And only then, can you dig in and write the brand plan. A smart brand plan should include a vision, purpose, values, analysis, key issues, strategies, and the execution tactics. In terms of numbers, you should also include sales forecasts, marketing budgets, profit statements and then brand goals.

As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” The same could be said about brands, who try to execute blindly without knowing where they are going.

The best-executed brands are also the best-planned brands.

Strategy starts with a vision of where you want to, lays out a strategic program that focuses on an identified opportunity in the market. From there, the strategy must have an impact in the marketplace, with a performance result back to the brand. 

The plan lays out how you will allocate your limited resources of investment, people, time and partnerships, against a potentially unlimited array of choices. The plan should be a forced decision-making tool that narrows your focus on those choices that offer the highest return on effort and return on investment.

The Beloved Brands planning process includes:

  1. A deep-dive business review.
  2. Key Issues
  3. Define the brand using a Brand Positioning process
  4. Writing the Brand Plan.

Stage 1: The deep-dive business review

You should do a deep-dive business review at least once a year on your brand. Otherwise, you are negligent of the brand, where you are investing all your resources. Dig in on the five specific sections—marketplace, consumers, channels, competitors and the brand—to draw out conclusions to help set up your brand’s key issues, which you answer in the brand plan.    

 

Steps of the business review

  1. Marketplace: Start by looking at the overall category performance to gain a macro view of all significant issues. Dig in on the factors impacting category growth, including economic indicators, consumer behavior, technology changes, shopper trends, and political regulations. Also look at what is happening in related categories, which could impact your category or replicate what you may see next.
  2. Consumers: Analyze your consumer target to better understand the consumer’s underlying beliefs, buying habits, growth trends, and critical insights. Use the brand funnel analysis and leaky bucket analysis to uncover how they shop and how they make purchase decisions. You should understand what they think when they buy or reject your brand at every stage of the consumer’s purchase journey. Also, uncover consumer perceptions through tracking data, the voice of the consumer, and market research.
  3. Channels: Assess the performance of all potential distribution channels and the performance of every major retail customer. Understand their strategies, and how well your brand is using their available tools and programs. And, your brand must align with your retail customer strategies.
  4. Competitors: Dissect your closest competitors by looking at their performance indicators, brand positioning, innovation pipeline, pricing strategies, distribution and the consumer’s perceptions of these brands. And then to go even deeper, you can map out a strategic brand plan for significant competitors to predict what they might do next. Use that knowledge within your own brand plan.
  5. Brand: Analyze your own brand through the lens of consumers, customers, competitors, and employees. Then, use brand funnel data, market research, marketing program tracking results, pricing analysis, distribution gaps, and financial analysis. You should be managing your brand’s health and wealth.

Summarize your analysis to set up the key issues to tackle in your brand plan:

  • What’s driving growth? The top factors of strength, positional power, or market inertia, which have a proven link to driving your brand’s growth. And, your plan should continue to fuel these growth drivers.
  • What’s inhibiting growth? The most significant factors of weakness, unaddressed gaps, or market friction you can prove to be holding back your brand’s growth. From there, your plan should focus on reducing or reversing these inhibitors to growth.
  • Opportunities for growth: Specific untapped areas in the market, which could fuel your brand’s future growth, based on unfulfilled consumer needs, new technologies on the horizon, potential regulation changes, new distribution channels, or the removal of trade barriers. Moving forward, your plan should take advantage of these opportunities in the future.
  • Threats to future growth: Changing circumstances, including consumer needs, new technologies, competitive activity, distribution changes, or potential barriers, which create potential risks to your brand’s growth. Moreover, build your plan to minimize the impact of these risks.

To read more on how to lead a deep-dive business review, click on this link:

How to lead a deep-dive business review on your brand

Stage 2: Laying out the key issues

Lay out the key issues that answer, “Why are we here?” by taking the summary findings of the deep-dive analysis and drawing out the significant issues in the way of achieving your stated brand vision.

A great way to find the issues is to brainstorm up to 30 things in the way of your vision. Then, narrow down your list to the top 3-5 significant themes you see. Take the themes and begin to write the top issues in a rhetorical, strategic question format to prompt a few different strategic options for how to solve each issue. Spend serious thinking time on these questions because the better the strategic question you ask, the better the strategic answer you will get.

Example of using the four strategic questions to focus the brand’s key issues


Another excellent methodology for finding key issues is to go back to the four strategic questions model I outlined in the strategic thinking chapters. This thinking ensures you take a 360-degree view of your brand. Looking at the example below, I have used the four strategic questions and come up with four specific questions that fit the Gray’s Cookies brand.

With various ways to brainstorm and find the issues I recommend for the annual brand plan, focus on the top three key issues, which set up the top three strategies. From there, a long-range strategic roadmap can typically handle up to five key issues, then five strategies.

Stage 3: Create a winning brand positioning

Four elements make up a brand positioning statement, including who you serve, where you play, where will you win and why consumers should believe you. These are the consumer target, marketplace definition, the consumer benefit, and support points.

  1. Who is your consumer target? What slice of the population is the most motivated by what your brand offers? Do not just think about whom you want, but rather who wants your brand.
  2. Where will you play? What is the competitive set that defines the space in the market where your brand competes? Positioning is always relative to the other brands your brand competes against.
  3. Where will you win? What is the main consumer benefit promise you will make to the consumer target to make your brand stand out as interesting, simple, unique, motivating, and ownable? Do not talk about what you do (features); instead, talk about what the consumer gets (functional benefits), and how the consumer feels (emotional benefits).
  4. Why should they believe us? Understand what support points and features you need to back up your main promise. These support points should close any possible doubts, questions, or concerns the consumer has after hearing your main promise.

Before you just randomly write out a brand positioning statement based on your intuition, I will force you to think deeper to help focus your decisions on the best possible space for your brand to win and own.

The consumer benefits ladder

The consumer benefits ladder helps turn your brand’s features into consumer benefits. You should stop talking about what your brand does and start talking about what your consumer gets. The four steps to building a consumer benefits ladder:

  • Leverage all available research to define your ideal consumer target profile with need states, consumer insights, and the consumer enemy.
  • Brainstorm all possible brand features. Focus on those features you believe give your brand a competitive advantage.
  • Move up to the functional benefits by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer. For each feature on your list, ask, “So, what do I get from that?” Challenge yourself to come up with better benefits by asking the question up until you move into a richer zone.
  • Then move up to the emotional benefits. Look at each functional benefit and ask, “So, how does that make me feel?” As you did in step 3, keep asking the question until you see a more in-depth emotional space you can win with and own.

To read more on brand positioning, click on this link:

How to build a brand positioning statement that will help you win in the market

Stage 4: Write a brand plan everyone can follow

We coach brand leaders to build highly focused strategic brand plans that everyone in your organization can follow. We use a workshop style process to help your team lay out a long-range strategic roadmap and brand plan that everyone in your organization can follow. We’ll help your team prepare brand plans for review. We then work with your team to create actionable project plans for each tactic with goals, milestones, and budget.

A typical agenda for a one-year brand plan would include:

Vision:

The vision should answer the question, “Where could we be?” Put a stake in the ground that describes an ideal state for your future. It should be able to last for five to 10 years. The vision gives everyone clear direction. It should motivate the team, written in a way that scares you a little and excites you a lot.

Brand purpose:

The purpose has to answer the question, “Why does your brand exist?” It’s the underlying personal motivation for why you do what you do. The purpose is a powerful way to connect with employees and consumers, giving your brand a soul.

Values:

The values you choose should answer, “What do you stand for?” Your values should guide you and shape the organization’s standards, beliefs, behaviors, expectations, and motivations. A brand must consistently deliver each value.

Goals:

Your goals should answer, “What will you achieve?” The specific measures can include consumer behavioral changes, metrics of crucial programs, in-market performance targets, financial results, or milestones on the pathway to the vision. You can use these goals to set up a brand dashboard or scoreboard.

Situation analysis:

Use your deep-dive business review to answer, “Where are we?” Your analysis must summarize the drivers and inhibitors currently facing the brand, and the future threats and untapped opportunities.

Key issues:

The key issues answer the question, “Why are we here?” Look at what is getting in your way of achieving your brand vision. Ask the issues as questions, to set up the challenges to the strategies as the answer to each issue.

Strategies:

Your strategy decisions must answer, “How can we get there?” Your choices depend on market opportunities you see with consumers, competitors, or situations. Strategies must provide clear marching orders that define the strategic program you are investing in, the focused opportunity, the desired market impact and the payback in a performance result that benefits the branded business.

Tactics:

The tactics answer, “What do we need to do?” Framed entirely by strategy, tactics turn into action plans with clear marching orders to your teams. Decide on which activities to invest in to stay on track with your vision while delivering the highest ROI and the highest ROE for your branded business.

 

To read more, click on this link below:

How to build a smart Brand Plan everyone can follow

 

My new book, Beloved Brands, coming this spring.

How this Beloved Brands playbook can work for you. The purpose of this book is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution, and be able to analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

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

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

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

Graham Robertson bio

 

 

 

 

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

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

situational leadership

 

Strategic Thinkers

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

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

5 ways to slow your brain down to think strategically

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

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

Instinctual Thinkers

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

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

5 ways to speed up your brain to think instinctually

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

Task Masters

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

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

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

5 ways to be more of a task master

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

Finding that balance

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

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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

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

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

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

 

 

How to build your marketing career behind your core strength

Just like a brand, we each bring a core strength as a marketing leader. It may be based on your natural skills, your leader behaviors or the experiences you have had in your past. It can also be impacted by where your passion lies. You should map out the future of your marketing career based on your core strength, whether that is running the business, marketing execution, strategic thinking or people leadership.

One of the toughest question I ask is to pick your #1 strength as a Marketer from these four potential choices:

  • You like running the business and managing products
  • You have a passion for marketing execution
  • Strategic thinker, writes strong Brand Plans
  • Leader of leaders, gets the best out of others

I know it must be a tough question, because everyone refuses to pick just one. Even if you are well-rounded, explore what might rise or fall based on skills, feedback, success, passion, or interest. While you have been trained and have learned to be a generalist, it might be time to re-focus on a specific strength.

Let’s take it a step further. Here’s a game you can play to force your thinking. Look below at the diagram. You have 4 chips. You have to put one on the highest strength, two on the medium and force one to be at the lowest.

Marketing Career Core Strength

If you still say, “I’m pretty good at all 4” then push yourself, I might not believe you. No one is equally great at all four. I want you to know what you are best at. As you make your next move, each choice may lead you to 4 different career choices.

If you like running the business, your career choices could be Product Management, Private Equity or New Industries. If you are into the Marketing Execution, you should explore switching to an Agency role, maybe a brainstorming ideation leader or become a Subject Matter Expert. And, if you are a Strategic Thinker, you could move into becoming a Consultant, Professor or go into a Global role. Finally, if you feel your strength is on the people leadership side, you can keep moving up to GM, explore the Entrepreneur world or become a Personal Coach.

When your strength is running the business

You’re naturally a business leader, who enjoys the thrill of hitting the numbers–financial or share goals. In Myers Briggs, you might be an ENTJ/INTJ (introvert/extrovert, intuition, thinking, judgment) the “field general” who brings the intuitive logic and quick judgment to make decisions quickly to capitalize on business opportunity. Marketing Career Core Strength
You like product innovation side more than advertising. You are fundamentally sound in the core elements of running a business—forecasting, analytics, finance, distribution—working each functional areas to the benefit of the products. And, you may have gaps in creativity or people leadership, but you are comfortable giving freedom to your agencies or team to handle the creative execution.

My recommendation is to stay within Product Management as long as you can. If you find roadblocks in your current industry, consider new verticals before you venture into new career choices. You should consider running businesses on behalf of Private Equity firms or venture into Entrepreneurship, where you can leverage your core strength of running a business.

When your biggest strength is Marketing Execution

You are the type of Brand Leader who is highly creative and connects more to ideas and insights than strict facts and tight business decisions. And, you likely believe facts can guide you but never decide for you. You are high on perception, allowing ambiguous ideas to breathe before closing down on them. You respect the creative process and creative people. Moreover, you are intuitive in deciding what is a good or bad idea. You may have gaps in the areas of organizational leadership or strategy development that hurts you from becoming a senior leader. You likely see answers before questions and frustrated by delays.

Marketing Career Core StrengthStaying in the Marketing area, you may end up limited in moving beyond an executional role. You may be frustrated in roles that would limit your creativity. Moving into a Director level role could set you up for failure. Look to grab a subject matter expert type role in an internal advertising, media, innovation role or merchandising.

Going forward beyond Marketing, consider switching to the Agency side or Consult on a subject-matter expertise (Innovation, Marketing Communication or Public Relations) to build on your strengths.

When you are naturally a strategic thinker

You enjoy the planning more than the execution. You might fall into the INTP, where you’re still using logic and intuition, stronger at the thinking that helps frame the key issues and strategies than making the business decisions. The introvert side would also suggest that your energy comes from what’s going on in your brain, than externally. An honest assessment would suggest that managing and directing the work of others is likely not be a strength.Marketing Career Core Strength

If you stay within the marketing industry, you would be very strong in a Global Brand role, General Management or even a Strategic Planning role. You need to either partner with someone who is strong at Marketing Execution or build a strong team of business leaders beneath you.

Going outside, you would enjoy Consulting and thought leadership which could turn into either an academic or professional development type roles. Continue building your thought leadership to carve out a specific perspective or reputation where you can monetize.

When your biggest strength is leading people

You find a natural strength in leading others. You are skilled in getting the most from someone’s potential. And, you are good at conflict resolution, providing feedback, inspiring/motivation and career management of others. You are a natural extrovert and get your energy from seeing others on your team succeed. As you move up, you should surround yourself with people who counter your gaps–whether that is on strategy or Marketing Execution.

Marketing Career Core StrengthIf you find yourself better at Management than Marketing, and you should pursue a General Management role where you become a leader of leaders. You would benefit from a cross functional shift into sales or operations to gain various perspectives of the business enable you to take on a general management role in the future.

After you hit your peak within the corporate world, consider careers such as Executive Coaching where the focus remains on guiding people.

Be honest with your future marketing career, to take full advantage of your core strength

To challenge your thinking with your marketing career, here is our presentation

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

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

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

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

 

Graham Robertson bio

If your brand is afraid of Amazon, then you should be terrified of Alibaba

[sg_popup id=”9″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]Now begins the North American battle of Amazon vs Walmart, with the winner to take on Alibaba on the world’s retailer stage.

alibabaI love watching the Kentucky Derby, especially those horses that start off slow, then pick it up on the back straight, and then basically fly past everyone on the last turn, like they are standing still. That’s how I feel about watching the Alibaba brand.

The joint venture between Walmart and Google is a signal that both might be a little bit scared of Amazon. 

But, Alibaba is using their dominance in the world’s largest market (China) to pick up all that speed in the back straight and likely beat both Amazon and Walmart.

Walmart is a tough competitor. They won’t go down without a fight.

Obviously, Amazon has a huge advantage in the US, but things are about to get really ugly as Walmart and Amazon attempt to destroy each other. 

But, if you have ever dealt with Walmart, you would have to be an idiot to ever count them out. Their culture focuses on the relentless fixation on fast-moving items that helps drive cash flow. Sure, Walmart beats up their vendors over price–but that’s mainly to drive sell through. If your brand moves slow, there is no debate–you are told to speed up your sales, and if you don’t, you are gone.

I remember when Walmart starting sending us their weekly sales data. My first thought was “Wow, this is true partnership, amazing data, thanks Walmart”. Then the questions started to come. “Your 250ml cherry flavored cough syrup is not selling fast enough, what will you do to accelerate turns”. We lowered the price. Or even worse, “Your Listerine Pocketpaks product accounts for the highest theft of any product in our stores, fix it”. We changed the packaging, just because they asked us.   In the bricks and mortar space, while most department store retailers sell through their inventory in 130-150 days. Walmart sells through their inventory in 29 days. That’s cash flow.

I expect Walmart will go lower on price than Amazon can tolerate. What retailer owned the low price positioning before Walmart?  Sears. If you go compare prices at Walmart and Sears, you will see why Sears stores are empty and about to go bankrupt.

Does the Google partnership help Walmart?  A little. But both better step it up fast. If Walmart loses to Amazon, the case study class starts off with “Walmart should have started their on-line war with Amazon in 2002, not 2017.”

Even if Amazon can tolerate lower prices and eventually beats Walmart, it will do some damage to their profits. Amazon will experience lower margins, squeezed cash flow, and a divided consumer base. It will further open the possibility of seeing Alibaba entering the US market.

Why Alibaba will win

Alibaba, valued at $420 Billion has seen an 80% increase in the market capitalization in the past twelve months. In the same period, Amazon has seen a 20% increase, still with a slight lead at $465 Billion. 

Here are 5 reasons why Alibaba will eventually win the global e-commerce retail space:

  1. Alibaba can utilize their home-field advantage. Alibaba is dominating the Chinese market, which is the #1 e-commerce population in the world. China has 500 million active on-line users, is twice the size of the US market. Walmart and Amazon will divide up the US market.
  2. Alibaba has a business model that delivers higher profitability. Alibaba’s business model, with no listing fees, with the bulk of their revenue coming from keywords and digital-advertising is closer to the social media model. This gives Alibaba significantly higher margins than Amazon. 
  3. Alipay payment system.  Alibaba launched a digital payment system in 2004, just for their own customers. Along with WePay, it has become the accepted method of payment in China. They have moved to a cashless and even cardless payment world. 
  4. Alibaba will ride the growth curve of the Chinese Economy. Despite the recent slowdown, China’s economy is still growing at almost three times the rate of the US – around 7% over the last couple of years, compared to less than 2.5%.The US has a growing trade deficit – it imports more than it exports – while China imports significantly less than it exports, resulting in a trade surplus.
  5. Alibaba’s sales will benefit from the growth of the Chinese Middle Class. In the last ten years, the average income for China has tripled. It is expected that from 2012 to 2022, those in China making more than $34K US will increase from 3% currently up to 9%, and those in the growing middle class ($16K to $34K) will increase from 14% up to 54%.

So when will Alibaba move west? Likely after the Walmart vs Amazon dust settles. By 2020, I would expect both Walmart and Amazon to be weakened. Whoever wins will have to take on a very healthy, highly profitable, cash-rich Alibaba. Realistically, Alibaba could end up two or three times the size of Amazon.Then it will be like watching that horse in the Kentucky Derby, with Alibaba rounding the final turn on the way to the finish line.

To read more on competitive strategy, click on this link: 

Competitive Brand Strategy

 

In retail, the smart money should be on Alibaba for the win.  

 

To learn about strategic thinking, follow this powerpoint slide presentation. 

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

Beloved Brands is a brand strategy and marketing training firm that is focused on the future growth of your brand and your people.

It is our fundamental belief that the more loved your brand is by your most cherished consumers, the more powerful and profitable your brand will be. We also believe that better marketing people will lead to smarter strategy choices and tightly focused marketing execution that will higher growth for your brands.

With our workshops, we use our unique tools force you to think differently and help unleash new strategy solutions to build around. I believe the best solutions lay deep inside you already, but struggle to come out. In every discussion, I bring a challenging yet understanding voice to bring out the best in you and help you craft an amazing strategy.

We will help you find a unique and own-able Big Idea that will help you stand out from the clutter of today’s marketplace. The Big Idea must serve to motivate consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal connection with your brand. Equally, the Big Idea must work inside your organization, to inspire all employees who work behind the scenes to deliver happy experiences for consumers.

We will help build a brand plan everyone can follow. It starts with an inspiring vision to push your team. We then force strategy choices on where to allocate your limited resources. With our advice on brand execution, we can steer the brand towards brand love and brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this linkBeloved Brands Strategic Coaching

At Beloved Brands, we deliver brand training programs that make brand leaders smarter so they are able to drive added growth on your brands. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

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

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

Graham Robertson Beloved Brands

 

Non-Marketing people really need to stop defining what marketing people do.

I suppose that everyone who has a TV and can critique Super Bowl ads or those with a Twitter account thinks they can now say they are a marketer expert. Sadly, we have let far too many people use the word “MarketingMarketing”or “Brand” in their title. The commentary that I see coming from non marketers is borderline cringe-worthy or hilarious. I have to tell you that the comments are silly.

  • When I read, “Marketers need to think more about the consumer” I think you’ve never met a real marketer. The best marketers starting doing that around 1915. I guess somehow this is now popular among non-marketers.
  • When I hear,  “Marketers should analyze data”, again, I’m thinking what incompetent marketers have you been hanging around with. That’s been a major part of the job since 1950. Sure, big data. But I have been working any data from share report data to Ipsos tracking data to weekly Walmart sales tracking data.
  • When I read, “The CEO should be in charge of the brand”, I think “Well then the CEO should be in charge of the IT system”. Sure, in charge, but they should be smart enough to delegate to the experts who will make their brand stronger. From my experience, the best marketing led organizations have bottom up recommendations, empowering the brand manager to tell their directors what they want to do, who then support them in moving that up to the VP and President. The worst organizations are when the CEO walks down the hall and asks “Why are we not on Instagram? My 15-year-old daughter was just showing me how cool it is this weekend”. This is likely the reason why the average tenure of a CMO is under 24 months at this point. They are likely sports coaches, hired to be fired, by the impatience of getting results.
  • When I hear, “Marketing needs to be more than just advertising” once again, you just don’t understand the job….typically advertising is 10-15% of the job.The best marketers determine the strategy, figure out the brand promise, brand communication, product innovation, purchase moment and consumer experience…they touch all, decide all, but they let their experts run each of those touch points.

Marketers don’t just “do marketing”.

I am glad so many want to be in Marketing. But you really should have to earn your way into it. Go interview for a job, get rejected a few times, push to really get in there and then learn like ton for a few years. I spent 20 years in marketing. I could not believe how much I learned  in my first five years, then even more in the next five, then way more in the following five and absolute insane amount in those last five years. I’ve now been a consultant for over five years and I swear I know twice as much as I learned in the first 20.

Marketing is not just an activity. The best marketers have to think, define, plan, execute and analyze, using all parts of your brain, your energy and your creativity.

OK, my rant is over.

 

To learn more, here’s a presentation on how to create a beloved brand:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

The new burger war: 5 Guys vs In-N-Out vs Shake Shack

When I was a kid, after my hockey practices, my mom and I used to go to Burger King. It became our tradition. What did i like the best? It was nice and quiet, compared to the crowded noisy McDonald’s right across the street. There were no lines, no one taking up the great seat locations. It was so quiet, it was almost zen. Even today, Burger King remains the place you go if you don’t like crowds.

Today, there’s a new burger war heating up:

  • 5 Guys Burgers
  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Shake Shack

Who will win? It might depend where you live. If you are in California, you may be partial to In-N-Out, if you are a New Yorker, it is Shack Shake for sure. Everywhere else, it looks like 5 Guys is the dominant brand. This is a brand site, so we look at this through the eyes of marketers and consumers, not food critiques. I am also a burger fan.

Who has the best burger?

I know there is a lot of debate out there. Lets dispel the myth here: they are almost the same piece of meat. They take a high quality ground chuck, and squish it firmly onto a grill, use a cooking technique to lock in the flavor and create a juicy burger. It is a much higher quality meat than McDonald’s and much juicier in the end due to the cooking technique.

The only difference is at 5 Guys, the burger feels like the burger actually breaks apart more which could make it feel less fast-food while In-N-Out feels very neatly stacked. I do like the bacon at Five Guys, but In-N-Out does a nicely toasted bun. Small details.

VERDICT:  Tie

Fries versus shakes

5 Guys FriesIf the burger is a relative tie, then what else can you look at. 5 Guys wins on fries, Shake Shack or In-N-Out wins on Shakes.  I’m a big fries fan, and 5 Guys does have pretty darn good addicting fries. They give you enough that you likely won’t finish them.  The In-N-Out fries (except for Animal Fries) are a little bit nondescript and boring. I do like the crinkle cut style Shake Shack fries, but they are frozen, not fresh. In terms of shakes, the In-N-Out shakes are legendary, whereas 5 Guys is completely missing out by not even having a shake. Verdict:  Tie, pick your poison and likely only have it once in a while.  

Who has better atmosphere?

I have to say, neither In-N-Out or Five Guys have a nice atmosphere.  The In-N-Out restaurants have the plastic feel of a McDonald’s, with booths too small to fit those who can eat a double-double. The hats on the employees are cute, giving it a 50’s diner feel. The 5 Guys atmosphere feels like a Costco, with dusty floors, crappy little tables and chairs. Plus, do we really need 50 signs per restaurant telling us how great you are. There is no effort on their store atmosphere. What you are doing is opening up the door to local establishments finding a niche against both of these with a cooler pub-like atmosphere. The Shake Shack locations are much nicer. If you ever get the chance to go to the original Shake Shack in NYC, it is worth it. I was doing some work with an ad agency, and arrived a couple of hours before the meeting. I didn’t feel like going up early and I noticed about 50 people lined up for lunch at this “shack” in the park.  Every time I have Shake Shack whether in Dubai or throughout the US, I still think of the park. A litlte like my first Movenpick experience, 20 years ago, in the middle of the swiss alps. Verdict: Shake Shack

Five Guys Shake Shack In-N-Out

 

Where does In-N-Out Burger win?

Clearly as I’ve heard from the fans, In-N-Out does a great job engaging with their consumers. The secret menu and the secret sauce, the traditions of the double-double and the “animal fries” all help create a “club” filled with brand fans who will take on anyone that knocks their brand.  There’s a slight difference in who each attracts.  In-N-Out’s menu items are generally less expensive — the chain is most popular with young men ages 18 to 24 with an income of less than $70,000 a year, according to NPD. By contrast, Five Guys patrons are generally 25 to 50 years old, with an income of more than $100,000. In-N-Out seems to have a more engaged consumer base that it can leverage as 5 Guys is now into the Southern California market ready to do battle right in the backyard of In-N-Out.t this point, In-N-Out is stuck as a West Coast brand, in California, Arizona, Nevada and now Texas, giving them only 320 locations.  They have not expanded very quickly, believing it is better to be loved by a few than tolerated by many. This gives them a regional strength and more emotional engagement goes to In-N-Out.

Where does 5 Guys win?

5 Guys has been much more aggressive on their expansion plan. They have pursued winning on review sites and lists that can help drive awareness for the brand. In 2010, they won the Zagat best burger. They have aggressively gone after celebrities such as Shaq and Obama. And most of all, they are winning on location, location and even more location.  5 Guys is everywhere, with 1000+ locations, fairly national and even in Canada. They are clearly following the McDonald’s real estate strategy by trying to be everywhere. The other area where 5 Guys wins is pricing. I am a marketer, so the more price you can command the better. For relatively the same burger, 5 Guys charges twice what In-N-Out charges. In this current stagnant economy, people are proving they’d rather pay $10 for an amazing quality burger than $15 for a lousy steak. It feels like In-N-Out is leaving money on the table with the prices that are just slightly above the McDonald’s price points. More aggressive growth goes to 5 Guys. 

Where does Shake Shack win?

They were definitely late the expansion party, with only 120 stores at this point. The NYC location in the park is such a part of their brand, yet it also drives a lot of revenue. At one point, Shake Shack thought they would stay a “New York only brand” which is part of their delay. Right now, the US market is fairly saturated with burger shops, so they now have 30% of their locations overseas including Seoul, Tokyo, London, Cardiff, Istanbul, Moscow, Muscat, Beirut, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Kuwait City, Riyadh. Pretty smart strategy to see an opportunity in those markets and close on them before the others could. I would say, the more interesting locations goes to Shake Shack. 

So who will win?  

At this point the clear winner will be 5 Guys. Just like McDonald’s versus Burger King in the original burger war, it’s not as much about the burger itself but about the aggressive pursuit of real estate. Unless In-N-Out wakes up, take all that brand love they have generated among their fans and they go on an 5-year big expansion, they will be relegated to a regional brand we only visit on our road trips to California.

5 Guys is quickly becoming the upscale version of McDonald’s

To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

A client’s view on what makes a great Advertising agency

[sg_popup id=”9″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]It seems that clients are firing ad agencies very quickly these days.  

I’m half way old enough that I’m straddling the fence on whether agencies are as good as the old days. But it seems that there are pitches going on constantly, and yet no one is really wanting to look themselves the mirror and say “Am I part of the problem?”

I’ve been brought in a few times to look at the situation. The first thing I normally tell the Brand Leader is “you have to fire yourself first” and then see if the agency is still bad. The best clients respect the process, the agency and their own judgment. And yet, most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting to great creative. As a Brand Leader, if you knew that showing up better would get you better advertising, do you think you could?  If there are 100 steps in every advertising development stage and you show up OK at each step, how are you possibly thinking you’ll end up with a GREAT ad at the end?  

What makes for a great Advertising Agency?

I come at this from the vantage of a client, having spent 20 years working as a Brand Leader.  I’m not an Ad Agency guy,but I’ve seen some great agencies and some not so good.  Here is my list of what makes a great Agency:

  1. They work for you, not your boss. While your boss pays them and has the final say, the best agencies still know you are the client. Nothing worse than a client service person constantly trying to go above your head. The best way for an agency to earn your trust is to consistently demonstrate that they work for you. That trust will earn them a seat, along side you, at the table of your boss. You will know they have your back and will support your recommendation, not cave at the whim of your boss.    
  2. They understand your goals, your issues and your strategies. They write briefs that are on your brand strategy and deliver work that expresses your brand strategy. Yes, the modern agency struggles to write advertising strategies that align to the Brand’s strategy. Just as though clients are not trained enough in the areas of strategy and planning, I see the same thing on the Agency side. As margins are squeezed, the first casualty is strategic planning. Yet, that might be one of the most important. I’d prefer to have a great strategic planner on the brand than have 5 client services people each show up taking notes at meetings.  
  3. They make work that drives demand and sells more widgets, not work that just win awards. Awards are part of the agency world–helping to motivate creative people and establishing the agency reputation in the market. I once had an agency person say: “we can’t write that strategy because it will make for boring work”. The balance of winning awards and selling more widgets always has to side with selling more widgets. I’m really tired of agencies starting off creative meetings with the “we are so excited” line. You want an agency that comes into a room and says “we have an ad for you that will sell more of your product”.  
  4. They give options. And they don’t always 100% agree. Come on agencies. We are in year 100 of making ads and you haven’t figured out yet that the clients like options. Each option has to deliver the strategy. Nothing worse than agencies who tear apart the brief and deliver options for each part of the brief. (e.g. here’s one for the younger audience, here’s one that does fast really well and here’s one that does long-lasting) That’s not creative options, that’s now strategic options.Marketing Execution 2016.025 We collectively decide on the strategy before the creative process begins, not meander the strategy during the creative process. As clients, options give us comfort. But even more importantly, options treat us with respect that we can still make the right decision.  
  5. Agencies are not territorial. They are transparent allowing you open and free access to their planners and creative people. It’s really the account people here. Good account people allow you to communicate directly with the creative team. Most great creative teams that I have worked with want direct access to the client, rather than have it be filtered through a series of contact reports.  
  6. They adjust and easily take feedback. Agencies serve at the pleasure of the client. Every client is unique and the best agencies adjust to that style. Not only the company but even the individual. I used to sit with my Account leader every quarter and go through how we can each get better. Some clients aren’t even doing annual agency performance reviews.  
  7. They are positive and already motivated to work on your brand. While I do encourage clients to motivate their agencies, it’s much easier to motivate someone who is already motivated.  When I see a 25-year old account person openly complaining, I see that as a problem with the culture of the agency, not a problem for the client to have to figure out. I’m now on the service side as a consultant, and we can never openly complain.  
  8. They teach. When I was a new Brand Manager, my client services person (Leslie Boscheratto) taught me more about advertising than any client should have to learn. In fact, I’m still embarrassed at how little I knew, yet thrilled at how much I learned from that team at Bates back in the mid 90s.  
  9. They act like you are their only client. And you feel important to them, no matter what share your budget is of the overall agency. Why sign you up as a client and then keep reminding you that they have Coke, Budweiser or Dove. When you are with me, treat me as though I’m the most important client in the world.  
  10. Trusted Advisor: They are a trusted advisor who will give you real advice, not just on advertising but on your performance and on the overall brand.  Most senior agency folks have seen plenty of clients come and go. Never be afraid to find a quiet moment with your agency person and ask two simple questions: “what can I do better” and “what do your best clients do that I could learn from”.

You’ll notice the one thing missing from my list is “They Make Great Work”.  That’s a given because that’s the only reason you hire an agency. Yes, some agencies make better work than others. But even those agencies that make great work, also make bad work. And if we were to look at why, it would likely start with the relationship, processes or interactions. So if the client can fix what they are doing wrong and the agency can show up right, then you should be able to make good work together.  

Making great advertising should be simple, but it is very hard to do. 

Here’s a presentation on How to get better Marketing Execution

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

10 reasons why Brand Managers get fired. Advice for how to fix each one.

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

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

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

Top 10 reasons why Brand Managers get fired:  

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

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

The big question is what do you do about it.

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

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

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

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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

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

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

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

China is in a state of dramatic change

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

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

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

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

Global Pricing Management Systems

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

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

Pricing Waterfall

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

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

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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Positioning 2016.112

How to write a Brand Concept that will help you win

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

It starts with doing the Brand Positioning homework

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

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

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Who is your target?

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

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

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What’s the Benefit?

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

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

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

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

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Emotional Benefits

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

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

Reasons to Believe (RTB’s)

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

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

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

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

Process

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

Product

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

Third person

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

Behavioral

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

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

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

 

Turning the work into a Brand Concept

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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