Can Whole Foods survive? I hope so. But, unless they change, I doubt it.

Whole Foods has lost 14 million customers the past 2 years. The people they irritated the most: their core customers who used to love the brand. Amazon, who recently bought them, sure has their work cut out to fix what has been messed up. Here are the four main reasons why customers have left Whole Foods.

  1. They got rid of freshly prepared market and used pre-prepared foods,that upset their core customers.
  2. They now carry “unhealthy” and non-organics products such as Cliff Bars, that upset their core customers.
  3. They desperately launched discount “365” brand, did nothing for their core customers.
  4. Mainstream retailers offered same organic products at lower prices. Their non-core customers left Whole Foods.

Notice a trend? Whole Foods does not seem to care about their care customers.

Would you invest in Whole Foods right now?

I remember 20 years ago, someone told me that Blockbuster would go bankrupt once on-line movies would take off. My immediate response was “No way!!!” I had just spent 45 minutes lined up at my local Blockbuster to rent “Usual Suspects” for the third time. How could a brand with so much demand completely fall off the face of the earth?

Now I am starting to wonder if Whole Foods will be around in 20 years? Strategic Thinking Whole Foods I sure hope so. I am a big fan of their brand and all the work they have done. Whole Foods has been the dominant player in ‘organic’ grocery stores the past 20-30 years. They have done everything right. They brought a clear brand positioning, a big idea, a fantastic culture that oozes off the walls of their stores and exhibited through every employee you engage with in the stores. They nail branding as well as Apple, Tesla or Nike. They built an army of outspoken brand fans and they are a beloved brand.

Would you invest in Whole Foods right now? Their market capitalization has fallen from $24 Billion to $9 Billion the last 2 years. None of their moves have re-assured investors that their future is bright.

Is Whole Foods a victim of their own success? 

For the past 70 years, the average grocery stores have served the local community within a 10 minutes drive, with 20,000 skus across 10 aisle grocery stores. The business model of traditional stores pumped out ridiculously high volumes at ridiculously low margins. At the retailer’s head office, the buyers had to beat down manufacturers like P&G, J&J, Coke, Kellogg’s and Kraft. They pushed high listing fees and high trade spend to get any displays or flyer ads. Even after all this work, Grocery stores traditionally make only 20-25% gross margins and then make only 2-4% operating profits. Over the last 10 years Kroger has averaged 22% gross margins and 2.7% operating margins. These are very typical numbers for a grocery retailer.

Whole Foods started as a rebellious disruptor to the grocery category.

Strategic Thinking Whole Foods Rebel BrandWhole Foods came along and figured out they could sell organic raspberries at $5.99  instead of $2.99 for normal raspberries and they could sell organic bacon for $9.99 instead of 3.99. They knew that not everyone would pay, but enough would. Instead of high volume, low margin, they went for modest volume with a much higher margin. Whole Foods averages 35% gross margins (+13% higher than Kroger) and 5.3% operating profit (double that of Kroger).

Up until the year 2000, Whole Foods only had 100 locations, capable enough to own a niche position as a rebel brand, yet small enough to fly under the radar of the bigger grocery players. If you notice the Venn diagram to the right, rebel brands own a niche that is far enough away from the mainstream players, to avoid being seen as a direct competitor. For these rebel brands, they believe it is better to be loved by a few than tolerated by many. These brands take all that passion of their consumers and build around it. At this point, Whole Foods owned organic, and the traditional grocery stores were fine to let Whole Foods own the ‘yoga enthusiasts’.

Most brands start as a rebel brands. They win over the trend influencers, satisfying those consumers who do not want what the mainstream brands offer. The rebel brand takes the aggressive stance against the mainstream, finding flaw in the way they do business.  They stand out as a completely different and a better choice to a core group of trend influencers who are frustrated with all the competitors in the marketplace. This consumer group becomes the most motivated consumers to buy into your new idea. Rebel brands must bring these on board and use their influence on others, as the brand begins their journey from rebel brands to island brands to challenger brands and then onto the Power Player brand. Below is a chart that outlines that evolution, and you can see how to use the different consumer types from the trend influencers and early adopters at the beginning and then finding the mass audience as the brand gets bigger and more powerful.

Brand Innovation

After 2000, the move to organic foods hit a tipping point of acceptance within the mainstream audience. Whole Foods took advantage of this shift and invested in rapid expansion across North America. Whole Foods moved to the next stage of what I call the “Island Brand” stage, where you are so different you are on your own. For the health-conscience consumers, Whole Foods success left the traditional grocery stores in a position where they disconnected from what these consumers want. During this time, Whole Foods expanded from 100 to 430 stores, with forecasts of up to 1,200 stores. Whole Foods had gone from a niche player that traditional grocery brands were willing to ignore to a major threat that pushed the traditional brands to make a counter move.

Strategic Thinking Whole FoodsAs organic moved to the mainstream the traditional grocery store responded by bringing in organic foods into their stores. Most traditional grocery chains report that 25-35% of their fresh food has become organic. These grocery stores are charging 15-25% lower prices than Whole Foods, yet still loving the added margins it gives them.

Simply marketing lesson, no one will ever travel farther and pay more, for something they can get close by at a cheaper price.

As a result, Whole Foods has lost customers to the traditional players. According to Barclays analysts, “Whole Foods has lost about 14 million of its customers over the last 18 months. The magnitude of the traffic declines … is staggering. As most retailers know — once traffic has been lost, those patterns rarely reverse”. Did Whole Foods move to the mainstream too quickly, trying to use the groundswell towards organic among mass consumers to move to a challenger position?

Whole Foods next move was a dumb one.

The history of warfare can be characterized by Generals who over-reacted and under-reacted. Both would lose. Whole Foods made the poor decision to launch a lower price, lower service, and lower margin version of itself called “365”.  I always find it frustrating to watch brands who face an attack and then try to act more like the competitor attacking them, rather than backing up a bit and being themselves. When in a competitive battle, especially against those who own the traditional space who you have attacked, never act like your competitor. Instead of staying themselves, the move to “365” acts more like their competitors.

I do not believe these 365 stores can win. They are a hybrid store which is confusing. They will not attract the mainstream consumer who want their organic foods at lower prices, but still wants to buy Diet Coke and Frosted Flakes. They will not win with the core health trend influencer audience who want more, not less.

How will the 365 stores make money?  Low volume and lower margins is a recipe for bankruptcy.

If they can’t win the mass audience, do they still have the health trend influencers? 

We are seeing local healthy grocery stores pop up around North America ready to offer the health trend influencers more. Due to “costs” Whole Foods has made some moves that will irritate this audience.  They got rid of their freshly prepared market and now use pre-prepared foods. There are now swirling questions about whether their food choices are 100% organic. Whole Foods uses their own standards of judging good/bad food options. Whole FoodsAlso, Whole Foods uses national distribution on most items, not through local farmers. On top of that, Whole Foods carries fairly mainstream brand choices such as Cliff Bars with 28% sugar or Kellogg’s Special K. This confuses or frustrates the health trend setter segment who do not want to see those types of brands in their grocery store.

This leaves Whole Foods potentially without a positioning to stand behind and without a core audience to build around. When you try to be everything to anyone, you end up nothing to everyone. Whole Foods have lost who they are. They could take the advice of Oscar Wilde who once said: “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”.

The problem I see for Whole Foods is they have been spiraling downward with losing sales base, yet they seem unable or unwilling to make the right changes. I would not invest, would you?  While brands start as rebel brands, no matter what stage your brand reaches, when the world around you collapses, I recommend the best thing a brand can do is return back to the rebel status and re-start their brand. Instead of going mainstream with lower price/lower service options like the launch of their “365 store”, Whole Foods should go back to their rebellious roots and go even healthier, go even more local, add high end services back. Make it a full experience the health trend influencers want. Instead of trying to drive high volume from their current audience, they should add higher margin services. Be more like who they were 20 years ago.

When you lose your way, return to the rebel position and kick-start your brand again.

 

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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

 

 

 

Narrow your target to those who are already motivated by what your brand does

Who wants you?
Too many Marketers think the way to make your brand bigger is to be able to appeal to a bigger, broader audience. While targeting everyone “just in case” might feel safe at first, it is actually less safe because you spread your resources so broadly, you never see the full impact of the resources. Instead of going after who you want the most, go after those consumers who want you.

book-photos-032To illustrate this point, we look at types of target markets:

  • Selling Target: You can sell to anyone who comes in the door and wants to buy. You can reactively sell to anyone who shows interest in your brand, regardless if they fit your ideal target. However, as your brand is constrained by limited resources, you should not spend your limited Marketing dollars against this large of a target, especially when you have seen no signs they will respond enough to provide an efficient pay back.
  • Marketing Target: The smartest Brand Leaders know their ideal consumer. With increased access to data, we know more and more about these people. Just like the shoe-shine person, you should focus your limited resources on those consumers motivated by what your brand offers. These people will respond to your brand story or your product offering, providing the fastest and highest return on investment and effort.
  • Program Target: When working on a specific campaign, the target narrows even further. These are the people you want to stimulate to see if you can get them to see, think, feel or do. A specific program target is smart when launching a new product, or lining up to a specific time of year (Back to School).

I was working with a bank who told me that their target market for a first time mortgage (home loan) was 18-65, new customers, current customers and employees. book-photos-033Sarcastically, I said, “You have forgotten tourists and prisoners”. As I pressed to help them narrow their consumer target, they pushed back saying that they didn’t want to alienate anyone “just in case” someone outside the usual target wanted a home loan. Sure, the odd 64-year-old might be tired of renting for the past 40 years and wants to finally buy their first home. But they would not be offended if there was a 32-year-old in the advertising. The reality is that first time home owners are usually in their late 20’s or early 30’s. The age target should be 28-33. I told the bank I could narrow their target from 100% of the population to 1% with one simple line. I said, “We should only target those who are looking to buy a house”. No one buys a house on impulse. And no one ever wanted a mortgage, without buying a house. Consumers usually spend 6-12 months looking for a house. This is complete common sense, but why was it lost on the bank? Think about the difference the focused target market makes. Instead of just randomly advertising to everyone on mass media, you can focus your resources where the consumer would be most open to your message. Advertise on real estate websites, use billboards beside new housing developments and buy radio ads on Saturday afternoon when people are looking at new homes. We narrowed the target market to: “28-33, already considering buying a house within the next year and nervous about their debt load.”

Narrowing the target is a choice. It is a myth to suggest that a bigger target will make your brand bigger. You will be much more successful convincing a small segment of the population to choose your brand because the promise matches up perfectly to what they want. They are already motivated by what you do.

Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focusing all your attention on those that can love you.

Brands need to stand out to win! Brands have four choices: better, different, cheaper or not around for very long. Your brand positioning statement must be simple, unique, own-able and motivating enough to get consumers to think, feel or act differently about your brand. To read more about how to drive your Brand Positioning, here is our workshop that shows everything you need to know, to have the smarts of strategy, the discipline of leadership and the passion of creativity to generate brand love in today’s modern world.

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. 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 use workshop sessions to help your team create a winning brand positioning that separates your brand in the market, write focused brand plans that everyone can follow and we help you find advertising that drives growth for your brand. We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. Our Beloved Brands training center offers 10 training workshops to get your team of brand leaders ready for success in brand management–including strategic and analytical thinking, writing brand plans, positioning statements and creative brief, making decisions on creative advertising and media plans.

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.

strategic-thinking-2017-148

New John Lewis 2016 Christmas ad finally released and it falls a little flat

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I feel like a little kid who races downstairs only to be disappointed by my gift. And then I feel bad about it. I am one of those who love the John Lewis Christmas ads and starts to think about it around early October.

And yet, this year, I just feel “blah”.

Once a year, brand fans await the latest installment of the John Lewis Christmas ad. So much attention, that it creates media hysteria trying to predict when it will be launched. John Lewis took advantage of that hype to use three little 10-second teasers with #BounceBounce to build up the anticipation.

The ad is OK, but not great.

It’s cute, but not brilliant.

It falls a little flat, compared to previous John Lewis ads.

Here is the ad, and before I lose you I have put all the John Lewis Christmas ads below for you to compare with.

 

Pretty simple story. Kid likes to bounce on things. Dad builds a trampoline. Animals come out and bounce on it. Dog sees them and is jealous. Dog bounces on the trampoline before the kid gets to it. Kid disappointed?  Mom and Dad disappointed? No one seems happy.

 

How do you feel about it? Is it just me?

The people at John Lewis felt that last year’s spot was “too sad” and they didn’t want to do “sad-vertising” anymore. Personally, I loved last year’s spot. It did bring a tear to my eye, but in a good way. John Lewis has also said they are trying to tap into the insight that 2016 has been a tough year, with Brexit and the US elections. Wouldn’t a more elaborate story be a better escape for consumers?

 

John Lewis has created a legacy around Christmas that is tough to live up to

I have worked on campaigns that lasted 10 years and 5 years. The hardest thing for a Marketer is to stay on track, yet try to beat last year’s spot. It is very hard to be creatively different, yet stay in line with the campaign. marketing-execution-2017-extract-9-001Those fight against each other. Since 2009, John Lewis has wiggled a little each year. But what they have not done yet, is sold out to the pressure. Each year, the ads have been highly creative, the ads that created the magic simply through the eyes of the children in the ads. The emphasis has always been on giving. You will see there is not a lot John Lewis branding in any of these ads, but there is a certain degree of ownership.

 

Rachel Swift, head of brand marketing at John Lewis, says “It is has become part of our handwriting as a brand. It’s about storytelling through music and emotion. The sentiment behind that hasn’t changed – and that is quite intentional. The strategy behind our campaigns is always about thoughtful gifting.”

Let’s use that summary to see how well the 2016 spot lives up to the John Lewis ads of the past?

  • There is not much of a story.
  • It is not very emotional at all.
  • It is not really about thoughtful gifting.
  • No one in the ad even seems happy.

In my view, 2016 ad falls flat and now I have to turn my attention to other retailers to see what they do. My hope is someone does something extra special. Right now John Lewis is the gold standard for Christmas ads and this latest puts them at risk that another retailer easily outshines them.

 

 

The history of John Lewis Ads

Here is last year’s spot, that might have gone overboard on sad. But I truly loved it.

Yes, the man on the moon is a metaphor (sorry, there really isn’t a man on the moon) for reaching out and giving someone a gift. For me, this ad quickly reminds me of when my own kids are on the phone or FaceTime with my mom. There is a certain magic in the innocence and simplicity when the very young talk with older people. They both seem to get it, maybe sometimes more than the in-between ages where the innocence of Christmas is lost within their busy schedules.

 

Here are the John Lewis spots from the last few years and you can tell me which one you like the best.

2014:  Monty the Penguin:

 

Here is the one from 2011, about the boy who couldn’t wait for Christmas. You will notice this year’s Man on the Moon feels very similar.

 

This is also a great one from 2010

 

And you can see the one from 2009.

 

In 2012, the “snowman” ad felt bit too dark for me with the tone feeling like a slight miss for John Lewis. I felt they were trying too hard.  Maybe feeling the pressure to keep the campaign alive by being different when really the consumer just wants the fast-becoming-familiar-John-Lewis-magic each year.

 

I also found the 2013 ad a bit of a departure, going to animation and utilizing on-line and in-store media. This campaign seems trying too hard to capitalize on their success. Doesn’t feel like a fit.

 

I guess I’ll have to wait for the 2017 John Lewis Christmas ad!  🙁

 

Christmas is 8 weeks away. Expect to see this spot a lot on your social media feed. But, also expect the other UK retailers to compete as they did last year. Here is a link to the 7 best Holiday ads for last year:

Our 7 favorite Holiday ads of 2015. Have your say.

 

Passion in Marketing Execution Matters. If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it? If you “sorta like” it, then it will be “sorta ok” in the end. But if you love it, you’ll go the extra mile and make it amazing. To read more about how to drive your Marketing Execution, here is our workshop that shows everything you need to know, to have the smarts of strategy, the discipline of leadership and the passion of creativity to generate brand love in today’s modern world.

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. 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 use workshop sessions to help your team create a winning brand positioning that separates your brand in the market, write focused brand plans that everyone can follow and we help you find advertising that drives growth for your brand. We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. Our Beloved Brands training center offers 10 training workshops to get your team of brand leaders ready for success in brand management–including strategic and analytical thinking, writing brand plans, positioning statements and creative brief, making decisions on creative advertising and media plans.

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.

bbi-creds-deck-2017-007

How to manage your B2B brand

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

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

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

Start with a Big Idea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

GR bio Jun 2016.001

 

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. 

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a solution for Brand Leaders 

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

1.  Where is your consumer?

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

2.  Where is the Brand?

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

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

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

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

What I recommend you do:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The media math from a client’s view

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

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

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

 

To see a training presentation on getting Better Marketing Execution: 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the Nicoderm ad based on the consumer insight:

 

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

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Barbie faced major declines

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

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

 

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

 

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

Here are five lessons for Brand Turnarounds

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

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

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Brand Promise
  2. Brand Story
  3. Innovation
  4. Purchase Moment
  5. Experience
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Brand Promise: Create a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, based on being better, different or cheaper. Try to use a brand positioning exercise to figure out your brand’s value proposition–we use a brand ladder (below) where we map out the target definition, product features, rational benefits and emotional benefits. To read more, click on this hyperlink: How to write a brand positioning statement

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

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Innovation: Fundamentally sound product, staying at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise. The trick with innovation is keeping the serendipity of an R&D team aligned, while pushing for a balance of blue ocean against staying within the perimeters of the brand strategy. New products have to meet consumer needs and many times creating a consumer need they didn’t even know they had. 

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

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Experience: Turn the usage of your product into an experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of their day. One of the best brand experiences is Starbucks, providing consumers with more than just coffee, but rather an escape from daily grind a hectic life. At Starbucks, you find that little moment between home life and work life, a cool atmosphere indie music and leather chairs, a barista that knows your name and your drink, you can order in Italian and one of the best things they manage to indirectly achieve–no screaming little kids.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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

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Don’t be one of these 10 worst types of Advertising clients

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

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I believe that most Brand Leaders under-estimate their role in getting great advertising creative. I have seen OK agencies make great work for an amazing client. I have also seen the best agencies fail dramatically for a bad client. My conclusion: the client matters more than anyone else, as they hold the power in either enabling or restricting impactful advertising from happening. Great clients communicate their desires with passion to inspire their Agency; they hold everyone accountable to the strategy and stay open to explore new solutions through creativity. Great clients are wiling to stake their reputation on great work. If you knew that being a better client would get you better work, do you think you could show up better?

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The 10 worst types of Advertising clients

#1: Clients who say: “You’re The Expert”

While intended to be a compliment to the Agency, it is actually a total cop-out by the client!  You really just give the agency enough rope to hang themselves. As a Brand Leader, you play a major role in the process.  You have to be engaged in every stage of the process and in the work. Bring your knowledge of the brand, make clear decisions and steer the work towards greatness.  

#2:  Clients who say: “I never Liked the Brief”

These passive-aggressive clients are usually insecure about their own abilities in the advertising space.  They keep firing their agency instead of taking ownership, because it is easier to fire the agency than fire yourself. A great Brand Leader never approves work they don’t love. If you don’t love the work, then how do you expect the consumer to love your brand? As the decision maker, you can never cop-out, and you never have the right to say “I never liked…”

#3:  Clients who have a Jekyll & Hyde personality

When Brand Leaders bring major mood swings to the Ad process, it is very hard for the agency. While clients are “rational” people, agencies are emotional and prone to your mood swings. monster_boss_at_conference_table_1600_clr_14572The worst thing that could happen is when your mood swing alters the work and you end up going into a direction you never intended to go, just based on a bad day you had. The best Brand Leaders stay consistent so that everyone knows exactly who they are dealing with.   

#4:  The Constant “Bad Mood” client

I have seen clients bring their death stare to creative meetings where hilarious scripts are presented to a room of fear and utter silence. The best Brand Leaders should strive to be their agency’s favorite client. For an odd reason, no one ever thinks that way. Advertising should be fun. If you are having fun, then so will your consumer.

#5:  Pleasing the mysterious “boss” who is not in the room

When the real decision maker is not in the room, everyone guesses what might please that decision maker. As a Brand Leader, you have to make decisions that you think are the right thing, not what your boss might say. Make the ad you want and then find a way to gain alignment and approval from your boss. And if you are the boss who is not in the room, let the creative process unfold and hope that it pleasantly surprises you. 

#6:  The dictator client

The best ads “make the brand feel different”. If we knew the answer before the process started, the ads would never be different, would they? When a Brand Leader comes in with the exact ad in mind, then it’s not really a creative process, it just becomes an order taking process. When you TELL the agency what to do, there is only one answer:  YES. But when you ASK the agency what you should do, there are many answers. When they come back to you with many, it makes your job of selecting the best, much easier. Revel in the ambiguity of the process, let the work happen.

#7:  The long list of Mandatories client

Clients who put 5-10 mandatories on the brief forces the agency to figure out your needs instead of the advertising problem. You end up with a Frankenstein. I have seen briefs that say no comedy, must use Snookie, setting must be a pharmacy, put our new lemon flavor in the ad, must include a demo. My challenge to Brand Leaders is that if you write an amazing creative brief, you won’t need any mandatories at all.

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#8:  The kitchen sink client

The “just in case” clients who want to speak to everyone with everything they can possibly say. If you put everything in your ad, you just force the consumer to make the decision on what’s most important. Consumers now see 7,000 brand messages every day, yet only engage in a handful each day. When you try to be everything to everyone, you end up nothing to anyone.

#9: The client who keeps changing their mind

Advertising is best when driven by a sound process, with enough time to develop ideas against a tight strategy. Think of it as creativity within a box. However, clients that keep changing the box will never see the best creative work. The best Brand Leaders control the brand strategy and give freedom on the execution.

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#10:  The Scientist client

Some clients think THERE IS AN ANSWER. The world of SEO and Digital tracking and advertising testing seems to be encouraging this mindset more than ever. Where you might think “precision”, I see navel gazing. Be careful giving up your instincts to the analytics. You might miss the blue-sky big picture or the freight train about to run you over. As a Brand Leader, you can’t always have THE answer. Too much in marketing eliminates risk, rather than encourages risk taking.  That might help you sleep better, but you’ll dream less. Revel in the ambiguity of the process. It is ok to know exactly what you want. Just not until you see it.

 

Being a better client is something you can learn.

Advertising takes experience, practice, leadership and a willingness to adjust. Ask for advice. Watch others who are great. Never give your Agency new solutions, just give them new problems. Inspire greatness from your Agency; yet never be afraid to challenge them for better work. They would prefer to be pushed rather than held back. Be your agency’s favorite clients, so the agency team wants to work on your brand, not just because they were assigned to work on your business. Think with strategy. Act with instincts. Follow your passion. Be the champion who fights for great work even if you have to fight with your boss. Make work that you love, because if you don’t love the work, how do you ever expect the consumer to love your brand?

Below is a presentation for a training workshop that we run on getting Better Marketing Execution, whether that is through traditional Advertising, social, digital, search, event, retail stores and public relations. 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. custom_business_card_pile_15837We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management.

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

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

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