Stop thinking that Work-Life balance is a weakness. Think of it as a competitive advantage.

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During my career, I always have felt that being able to keep my balance was one of my competitive advantages. While my peers were burning out, somehow I was able to stay fresh, energized, creative and positive. I have always said that what kept me going was a love of the work. But secretly, what really kept me going was to know when enough was enough, finding small ways to rejuvenate myself and always keeping things in perspective. It’s a fact that actuaries have the longest life expectancy of any job. It’s a 9-5 job, compete certainty, follow the process and go home. But, even with a shorter life, I’d still rather be a marketer.

Dealing with pressure

Marketing jobs are very hard. The pressure is immense. The pressures of deadlines, career advancement, politics, budgets, making the year, uncertainty, conflicts with others all adds up. The pace of the jobs can wear you down. While your calendar is jam-packed with meetings, everything is due yesterday.   While you know the big planning dates, because you’re doing approvals on packaging or fixing your forecast, those dates somehow creep up faster than you want some years. While the variety in the job is stimulating, it too takes its toll.  It’s hard being a jack of all. As you move up, you’re not allowed to really have weaknesses–you need to be strategic yet creative, organized yet flexible, decisive yet open, able to give feedback and yet receive it. It’s all about continuous improvement just to keep up in the job. If you’re a working mom or dad, then you are likely running around every week night and weekend. You might be rushing to the day-care but you’re also signing back on after the kids are in bed.

As we get to the holiday period, this week is likely the quietest week in your office. Half the staff has bolted for the holidays. Aside from you getting your last-minute accrual in to finance, completing all the HR things you forgot to do from October and doing as much work as you can just to catch up so you can get a few days off, this is a great time to start to think about work life balance.

Ask yourself these two questions:

  • This year, on a scale of 10, how good is your work life balance?  
  • In 5 years, on a scale of 10, what would your goal for what you would like your work-life balance to be?

If the answers are different, then you have a problem. Do you really think your answer will be any different or will you just have a new set of challenges in 5 years. Well, this week is a great chance to have that life-changing “ah-ha” moment where you take a look and adjust. Make a new year’s resolution that you want to live a more balanced life in 2013.

Think of your career like a long-distance race, not a series of sprints.

f9eb6317cf4d5042b7c2547be0c65160.jpgAs you come up to your new years resolutions, maybe it’s time to think about work-life balance. Instead of feeling guilty about it, look at this as a competitive advantage that can make you even better.

Here’s my work-life balance tips I have used for years to keep my balance:

  • Never work on weekends. If you are going to stay energized and creative in your role then you need that 48 hour break to stay fresh. I’d prefer to work Thursday night till 10pm to get what I needed to get done. This will help you live a more balanced life.
  • When you look at your weekly calendar at the start of each week, or each day, challenge yourself to get a major task done in the morning and then get a major task done in the afternoon. That means you do COMPLETE at least two things from your project list each day. At the end of each week, you will have COMPLETED 10 major tasks–far better off then if you hadn’t. The alternative is getting to the end of the week, driving home and saying “damn it, i forgot to get that report out”. This is a simple system that knocks things off your to-do list and you’ll be shocked at how good it makes you feel. If you think this is too simple, my challenge to you is did you get 10 major things done list week?
  • Also in your calendar, create 5 fictional meetings that you can use for thinking time. Thinking, whether strategic or creative, is a part of the job.  But you can’t do it with wall-to-wall meetings from 8 till 5pm.  Many leaders who like to be active, forget about the thinking. They become known as “do-ers” not “thinkers”. People will look to them to get things done. They’ll call them “good soldiers”. And yet, they get stuck somewhere on the org chart because they forget to think. This will give you an ownership of your calendar that ensures you do at least 5 hours of thinking time.
  • Take up walking–at least 30-60 minutes a day. While it burns off some calories, it’s a great way to stay balanced. It’s the best thinking time you can do. Driving is also a good time, but doesn’t burn off any calories. I would bet half my ideas came from walking time. If you have “No Time”, then get off the subway 5 stops earlier. Go for a walk at lunch with a buddy. Or better yet, have a walking Meeting at some point in the day. Steve Jobs used to do walking meetings all the time. I love these and when i do workshops for teams, I always put in a 15 minute walking exercise. This allows you get away from the hustle and bustle of things and open your mind a bit.
  • When you come off a big busy crunch period, it is time to spoil yourself. Use the next 3 days as slacker days. And in those 3 days, do something, go somewhere and eat something that’s a favorite.   Spas, massages, hamburgers across town, old movies, reading a book, taking a long hot bath. Your call. But while the last few weeks or months have been a sacrifice  now it’s time for a bit of “me time”. This rewards you for the sacrifice you just made over the past few weeks/months. It will get you back in the game ready for the next sacrifice, because you know you’ll reward yourself after.
  • When you go on vacation and shut it down, you have to shut it down completely. Get rid of the phone, the laptop. Stop checking voice mail. If your mind is on fun and work at the same time, you won’t be much fun. If you have a great vacation then you’ll be even better when you get back to the office, ready to go.
  • Get yourself better organized. If you feel in control of everything, then you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to achieve balance. If you are constantly chasing your tail, you’ll burn out. I’m always organized–which I always say allows me to know where I can off-course because I know the entry point for getting back on track. This will help you to live a bit simpler and find the balance easier.
  • Isolate the planning period to ONE MONTH. These companies that do planning for 9 of the 12 months…. seriously? When are you suppose to do your job. Planning should be 3-4 weeks maximum.   If you do a 1-2 strategic workshop with the 10 people on your brand, you can easily get your plan to the 70% stage and use the rest of the time to improve and tighten it up. But if you’re always planning then when are you doing the work.Doing up fancy chart after fancy chart does not make you a better strategic thinker. It makes you worse. Stop it.
  • Write a plan you can do easily. I always try to get my clients to focus on 3 strategies with 3 tactics per strategy. That gives you 9 major things you have to do in the coming year. Think about how good of a job you would do on those 9. Compare that to a plan with 7 strategies and 7 tactics per strategy. 9 vs 49. You do the math and see who will be a better marketer, who will look like they are doing the job with complete ease. I once asked one of my directors to show me his project list and he said he had 87 major projects due this quarter and the list was always changing because we keep coming up with better ways.  His team all wanted to quit and he burned out months later.
  • Don’t create work for others and they likely won’t create work back for you. I remember as I was a new director, I used to send out notes that created work for my team. Do this….look up this….complete this for me. Then I started to notice they’d have questions for me, or send me back the answers and ask for my feedback. I started to notice the loop: The more work I create for others the more work that I create for myself. So stop it!!! I did.
  • Have a “work out” session with your team. Map out all the ideas and prioritize them on big vs small and easy vs difficult. Try to do all the big and easy ideas and avoid the small and difficult ones.   These time wasters just don’t matter and they are a drain on resources.
  • Keep perspective. It’s just Marketing. Yes, these jobs are amazing. They are fun. It’s what we do. But it is just a marketing job! We aren’t saving lives, fixing world peace or world hunger. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun with it. If Marketing isn’t fun, then you are doing it wrong. 

Take a Breather to really change the way you live your life. Find your balance. Force yourself to rejuvenate. Do something for your health.

Stop thinking that Work-Life balance is a weakness. Think of it as a competitive advantage.  

Here is a lunch-and-learn presentation we do for Marketing teams on how to manage your career in Brand Management.

 

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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5 key success factors at the CMO level

CMO slides.001At the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) level, success comes from your leadership, vision and ability to get the most from your people. If you are great at your job, you might not even need to do any marketing, other than challenge and guide your people to do their best work. Steer on principles, values and strategy. But let your people equally challenge you from the bottom up. Especially with the shift to media that did not even exist when you started your career. Your greatness comes from the greatness of your people. Once you figure out the magical leadership equation that better people create better work, you’ll be able to deliver better results. Invest in training your people as a way to motivate your team and keep them engaged. At the end of meetings, use teaching and mentoring moments to share your wisdom. Equally, you represent Marketing to the rest of the organization. You must challenge the other functions, challenging your sales peers on ensuring the channel strategies deliver the purchase moment, challenging HR peers to ensure that the organization can deliver the expected brand experience, challenging R&D to ensure the innovation pipeline is strong and challenging your Finance peers to ensure the strategy has adequate resources to deliver the results. You also have to challenge your CEO to push for the right brand strategies and highly creative executions. You have to stay fresh, on top of trends with consumers, channels, competitors, media and in most cases the economic conditions of various geographies around the world.

Quintessentially, rule #1 is you have to make the numbers. 

As the CMO, your main role is to create demand for your brands. You are paid to gain share and drive sales growth to help drive profit for the company? The results come from making the right strategic choices, executing at a level beyond the competitors and motivating your team to do great work. But how you do it, and the balances you place in key areas are choices you need to make.  Making the numbers gives you more freedom on how you wish to run things. Without the numbers, the rest might not matter.

Five success factors for CMO roles:

1. People come first

Focus on the People and the Results will come: The formula is simple: the smarter the people, the better the work and in turn the stronger the results will be. You should have a regular review  of the talent with your directors. CMO slides.002I would encourage you to ensure there’s a systemic way to get feedback to everyone on the team, preferably on a quarterly basis. Invest in training and development. Marketing Training is not just on the job, but also in the classroom to challenge the thinking of your people and give them added skills to be better in their jobs. Marketing fundamentals matter. The classic fundamentals are falling, whether it is strategic thinking, writing a brand plan, writing a creative brief or judging great advertising. People are NOT getting the same development they did in prior generations. Investing in training, not only makes them better, but it is also motivating for them to know that you are investing in them.  

2. Be the visionary

You are the Mayor of Marketing: Bring a vision to the role. Look at what needs fixing on your team, and create your own vision statements that are relevant to your situation. Bring a human side to the role. Get up, walk around and engage with everyone on your team. It will make someone’s day. Your role is to motivate and encourage them to do great work. Influence behind the scenes to help clear roadblocks. Know when you need to back them up, whether it’s an internal struggle, selling the work into your boss or with a conflict with an agency. Do they love it? When they put their great work up for approval, and it’s fundamentally sound, approve it. Don’t do the constant spin of pushing for better, because then you look indecisive. 

3. Put the spotlight on your people

Let them own it and let them Shine: It has to be about them, not you. Do not be the super-duper Brand Manager. It is not easy to balance giving them to freedom to lead you and yet knowing when to step in and make a decision. By making all the decisions, you bring yourself down a level or two and you take over their job. Instead of telling, you need to start asking. Ask good questions to challenge or push your team into a certain direction without them knowing you’re pushing them is more enlightening than coming up with statements of direction. Challenge your team and recognize the great work. It might be my own thing, but I never said: “thank you” because I never thought they were doing it for me. Instead I said: “you should be proud” because I knew they were doing it for themselves.  

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4. Be a consistent, authentic, approachable leader

People have to know how to act around you. You have to set up an avenue where they are comfortable enough to approach you, and be able to communicate the good and bad. A scary leader discourages people from sharing bad results, leaving you in the dark. Open dialogue keeps you more knowledgeable. If you push your ideas too far, you could be pushing ideas from a generation too late. Get them to challenge you. Inconsistent behavior by a leader does not “keep them on their toes”. It inhibits creativity and creates tension. Be consistent in how you think, how you act in meetings and how you approve. Leadership assumes “follower-ship”. Creating a good atmosphere on the team will make people want to go the extra mile for you. Knowledge makes you a great leader, and it starts with listening. You will be surprised how honest they will be, how much they will tell you.

5. Run the process and the system

While your people run the brands and the execution, you should run the P&L and essentially run all the marketing processes. You have to run the P&L and make investment choices. Bring an ROI and ROE (Return on Investment and Effort) mind set to those decisions. These choices will be one of the essentials to making the numbers and gaining more freedom in how you do the job. In terms of process, it’s always been my belief that great processes in place—brand planning, advertising, creative briefs—is not restrictive but rather provides the right freedom to your people. Get your people to drive all their creative energy into great work that gets in the marketplace, not trying to figure out what slide looks really cool in the brand plan presentation.  To read more about running the Planning process, click on this hyperlink: 

How to lead the entire Brand Planning process on your business

The head of Marketing role can be very lonely.

I remember when I first led a Marketing team, I found it surprisingly a bit lonely. Everyone in marketing tries to be “on” whenever you are around. And you don’t always experience the “real” side of the people on your team. Just be ready for it. The distance from your new peers (the head of sales, HR, operations or finance) is far greater than you are used to.Your peers expect you to run marketing and let them run their own functional area. They have their own problems to deal with, and likely see many interactions as a win-loss for resources. The specific problems you face, they might not appreciate or even understand the subtleties of the role. Your boss gives you a lot of rope (good and bad) and there’s usually less coaching than you might be used to. It is important for you to have a good mentor or even an executive coach to give you someone to talk with that understands what you’re going through.

As a CMO, you have to know that better people leads to better execution, which leads to stronger brand results

 

 

We will make your team of brand leaders smarter

While you might think that having a great product, the right strategy and a winning TV ad will drive your brand, the long-term success of your brand is dependent is how good your people are. If you have great Brand Leaders, they will be on top of your business, make the necessary strategic course corrections, create better executions that connect with consumers and drive profitable growth for your brand.

One of the best ways to drive long-term business results from your brands is to ensure you have a strong marketing team in place. At Beloved Brands, we can develop a tailored program that will work to make your team better.  Regardless of industry, the fundamentals of Brand Leadership matter. In terms of connecting with your people, Training is one of the greatest motivators for teams and individuals.  Not only do people enjoy the sessions, they see the investment you’re making as one more reason to want to stay. They are focused on their careers and want to get better.  If you can be part of that, you’ll retain your best people.

The Brand Management courses we offer:

At Beloved Brands, our training center offers 10 selected courses to get you ready to succeed in Brand Management.

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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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Is your Brand Team good enough to achieve your 2014 goals?

2014As you move up, you start to realize that you can’t do everything, and you’re really only as good as your team.  The thing I’ve always said is that better people create better work and that means better results.  The question you should be asking is are they good enough?  Maybe it’s time to invest in making your people better, so that you can be freed up for more leadership, higher level strategic thinking and focusing on driving the vision of the team, rather than caught in the weeds of re-writing copy on a coupon.  

Here are 5 key questions to be asking:  
  1. Do your Brand Leaders think strategically?  
  2. Are your Brand Leaders going deep enough on their analysis?  
  3. Can your Brand Leaders write a plan and communicate it throughout the company?  
  4. Are your Brand Leaders a good judge advertising and communication?
  5. Are your Brand Leaders good at staying focused?

Are they disciplined and fundamentally sound?   Can everyone on your team effectively write a brand plan, positioning concepts, a creative brief, make marketing investment decisions and judge creative work to ensure it delivers the strategy?  The great myth of marketing is that it is 100% learned on the job.  It should be a balance of coaching from a well-trained leader, teaching in a class room setting and learning on the job.  More and more, we are seeing marketing teams thrust new marketers into their roles without any training.  In fact, their bosses and even their bosses haven’t really received any training. So who is really teaching you, on the job, if the person with you isn’t well-trained?   

Q1:  Do your Brand Leaders think strategically?   

Strategic thinking is not just whether you are smart or not.  You can be brilliant and not strategic at all.  Strategic Thinkers  see “what if” questions before they see solutions. They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out.  They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planners who can see connections.  bbi trainingOn the other hand, Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions.  They opt for action over thinking, believing that doing something is better than doing nothing. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. With the explosion of marketing media, we are seeing too many of the new Brand Leaders becoming action-oriented do-ers and not strategic thinkers.  They don’t connect their actions to maximizing the results on the brand.  They do cool stuff they like not strategic things that help grow the business and add profit to the Brand.  I see too many of today’s Brand Leaders focused on activity, rather than strategy.

When you are strategic , you will focus all of your resources and energy against the pressure points that drive the greatest return on investment and effort.  There are Four Principles of Good Strategy: 1) Focus 2) Early Win 3) Leverage point and 4) Gateway to something bigger.

  1. FOCUS:  all your energy to a particular strategic point or purpose.  Match up your brand assets to pressure points you can break through, maximizing your limited resources—either financial resources or effort.  Focus on one target.   Focus on one message.  And focus on very few strategies and tactics.  Less is more. 
  2. You want that EARLY WIN, to kick-start of some momentum. Early Wins are about slicing off parts of the business or population where you can build further.  This proves to everyone the brand can win—momentum, energy, following.  
  3. LEVERAGE everything to gain positional advantage or power that helps exert even greater pressure and gains the tipping point of the business that helps lead to something bigger.  Crowds follow crowds. 
  4. See beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, the entrance or a means of access to something even bigger.   It could be getting to the masses, changing opinions or behaviours.  Return on Investment or Effort.

To me, with the modern-day Brand Leader, the area where they struggle the is the “FOCUS” part.  Every brand is constrained by resources—dollars, people and time.  Focus makes you matter most to those who care.   Focusing your limited resources on those consumers with the highest propensity to buy what you are selling will deliver the greatest movement towards sales and the highest return on investment for those resources.  In a competitive category, no one brand can do it all.  Focus makes you decide whether to be better, different or cheaper.  Giving the consumer too many messages about your brand will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique.  Trying to be everything is the recipe for being nothing.  Trying to do everything spreads your resources and your message  so that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”.   With a long to-do list, you’ll never do a great job at anything.   And in a crowded and fast economy, “ok” never breaks through so you’ll never get the early win to gain that tipping point that opens up the gateway to even bigger success. 

Have your Brand Leaders been taught how to think strategically?  I actually don’t know many Brand Leaders that really have been taught.  Yet, we tell Senior Brand Managers, you’re not getting promoted because you’re not strategic enough.  If we taught them how to be strategic, we might find a better pool of talent within your team.  The following training module shows Brand Leaders how to think strategically, and how to think in terms of consumer strategy, competitive strategy or visionary strategy.   Consumer Focused Strategic Thinking starts with the consumer, maps out the need states and best matches your brand to delivering a unique selling proposition that helps connect with consumers, drives added power for the brand which can translate into growth and profitability.  Competitive Focused Strategies have 4 types of  Marketing Warfare Strategies 1) Offensive 2) Defensive 3) Flanking and 4) Guerilla.  Focus and speed are crucial to any warfare.  Being organized and aligned internally is crucial to winning.  Visionary Strategy starts with the purpose driven vision (the Why) and layers in the strategy (the how) and execution (the what) deliver that vision. 

Q2.  Are your Brand Leaders going Deep Enough on Analysis?

I hate when brand leaders do that “surface cleaning” type analysis.  I call it surface cleaning when you find out that someone is coming to your house in 5 minutes so you just take everything that’s on a counter and put it in a drawer really quickly.  I can tell very quickly when someone doesn’t dig deep on analysis.  

The best way go deep on your analysis, ask “so what does that mean” at least five times and watch the information gets richer and deeper. 

Slide1

Looking at the Gray’s Cookie example above, intuitively, it makes sense that going after Health Food Stores could be one option put on the table.  But to say you need to be better, without digging in remains an unsubstantiated opinion.   As you dig deeper, you see that going after Health Food stores, who are highly independent is labor intensive and the payback is just not there.  Yes, you’re way under-developed.  But it’s more expensive than other options.  When you bring the option of going after mass into the mix, which is head office driven, you start to see a higher return on the investment.  This is just a fictional example, but look how the thinking gets richer at each stage.  Force yourself to keep asking “so what does this mean” or “why” pushing the analysis harder and harder. 

Thinking Time Questions that will Help you Go Deeper.  The first analysis is “What do we know?” with 5 key questions to help you sort through your analysis:

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

It forces you to start grouping your learning, forces you to start drawing conclusions and it enables your reader to separate fact (the back ground information) from opinion (where you are trying to take them)

The second type of analysis is “Where are we?” with 5 key questions to help you sort through your analysis:

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

These questions help frame your thinking as you go into a Brand Plan.  The first question helps the analysis, the second with the key issues, the third frames the vision and objectives, the fourth gets into strategy and tactics and the fifth gets into the execution.  My challenge to you:  update it every 3-6 months, or every time you do something major.  You’ll be surprised that doing something can actually impact “where are we?” on the analysis.  

Q3.  Can your Brand Leaders write an effective Brand Plan?

A well-written Brand Plan helps to align an organization around the direction, the choices and the tactics that need implementing for a brand to achieve their goals. The Brand Plan unites functions such as marketing, sales, product development outlining what each group needs to do for the brand to be successful, while setting goals that operations and finance need to support. The Brand Plan gains approval from senior management around spending options, strategic choices and sets forth the tactics that will be implemented. It holds senior management accountable to the plan. The Brand Plan helps frame the execution for internal stakeholders and for the various agencies who will implement programs within the plan. Execution is an expression of the strategy, and the plan must hold agencies accountable to delivering work that is on strategy. And lastly, the Brand Plan helps the Brand Manager who wrote it, stay focused to deliver what they said they would. It helps them to refer back to the strategy and the intention to ensure the Brand Manager “stays on strategy” the entire year.  For more on how to write a plan, follow this link:  How to Write a Brand Plan

Can your Brand Leaders write a winning Brand Positioning Statement?  Brand Positioning Statements provide the most useful function of taking everything you know about your brand, everything that could be said about the consumer and making choices to pick one target that you’ll serve and one brand promise you will stand behind.  While we think this brand positioning statement sets up the creative brief, it should really set up everything the brand does–equally important for internal as everyone should follow to what the positioning statement says. A best in class positioning statement has four key elements: 

      • Target Market (a)
      • Definition of the market you play in (b)
      • Brand Promise (emotional or rational benefit) (c)
      • The Reason to Believe (RTB) the brand promise (d)

The more focused your decisions, the more successful you will be: decide on one target, one promise and maybe  one or two reasons to believe that help to directly back up your promise.  But the target shouldn’t be everyone 18-65, and don’t throw your eight best features at the wall and hopefully something sticks.  And the reason to believe has to back up your promise, not be a whole new promise.  To see more on how to write an effective Brand Positioning Statement, follow this link:  How to Write a Positioning Statement

Can your Brand Leaders write a Creative Brief?  The best Advertising is well planned, not some random creative thing that happens.  The value of a creative brief is focus!  Like a good positioning statement, you’re taking everything you know and everything you could possibly say, and starting to make choices on what will give you the greatest return on your media dollars. If you’re not making choices then you’re not making decisions.  Unlike other creativity, advertising is “In the Box” creativity.  The best advertising creative people  are problem solvers, not blue sky thinkers.  Therefore, the role of the creative brief is to create the right box, enough room to move, but enough direction that defines the problem.  The smaller the brief, the bigger the idea.  A good brief should be brief.  One page maximum.  I’m still in shock when I see briefs reaching 5 or 6 pages.  That’s not a brief, that’s a long!  Take the pen and start stroking out words, forcing yourself to start making decisions.  Avoid the “just in case” type of thinking.  For more on How to Write a Brief, follow this link:  How to Write a Brief

Q4.  Can your Brand Leaders judge communications?

Making great advertising is very hard.  Good marketers make it look simple, but they have good solid training and likely some good solid experience.  As Brand Leaders sit in the room, looking at new advertising ideas, most are ill-prepared as to how to judge what makes good advertising and what makes bad.  It’s a myth that great marketing is learned strictly “on the job”.  I also say “you are likely to screw up your first five ads”.  slide15And if you do one a year, that’s 5 years of advertising.  So, how well prepared are you?  An ill prepared Brand Leader will more than likely deliver a poor ad.  There are fundamentals to help ensure that your instincts are the right instincts.  How many hours of training have you had on giving direction to a creative team?   How many times did you role-play giving feedback to the agency?  How good was the coaching you received on your feedback?  Not only do you need the fundamentals through solid training, but you likely need someone coaching you through a role-playing exercise.  Too many Brand Leaders sit there confused, brief in hand, but not sure whether they like it or not sure whether any of the scripts will do much for them.  The four questions you should be asking:

    • Will this ad attract Attention? (A)
    • Does this ad showcase the Brand? (B)
    • Are we Communicating our main benefit?  (C)
    • Will this ad stick in the minds of consumers? (S)

Using something like the ABC’s makes it easy for Brand Leaders to stay strategic and be able to judge the work effectively.  Here’s a write-up on How to help Brand Leaders judge communications Effectively:  The ABC’s of Effective Communication

Q5.  Are your Brand Leaders good at staying focused?

So many Brand Leaders try to do too much.  When you do too much, you just spread your resources thin across too many activities.   You end up never being able to execute anything to the high quality, you never find out if the program could really achieve what you want to achieve.  I use a very simple grid to focus all the activities.  Get everyone to brainstorm all the ideas on post it notes.  Then using the grid below, get them to sort the ideas based on how big the idea is, and how easy it is to execute.  I push for the top 5 ideas that are in the BIG/EASY zone.  

  • If there’s a big idea that’s difficult, then spend the time brainstorming how to make it easier.  
  • If there are small ideas that are easy, then brainstorm how to make the idea even bigger.  

Slide1

There are four areas you need to focus:

  • Pick a focused Target Market:  While it’s tempting to sell to everyone.  Focus your resources on those most likely to buy. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focus on those that can love you.
  • Pick a focused Brand Positioning:  Start with the target market you just picked, and assess their need states to see where you can best match up. Beloved Brands are either better, different or cheaper. Or they are not around for much longer.
  • Pick a Focused Strategy:  Brands need to understand where they sit before picking strategies.  Evaluate the health of your brand using the Brand Funnel to understand where you are strong and should keep pushing or where you have a weakness (a Leak) that you need to close.
  • Focused Activities:  While everyone talks ROI, I talk ROE as well.  Return on Effort forces you to prioritize all your activities.

Stay aligned to your plan, and don’t be tempted away from your focus.  When you focus, five things happen.

  1. Better ROI:   With all the resources against one strategy, one target, one message, you’ll be find out if the strategy you’ve chose is able to actually move consumers drive sales or other key performance indicators.
  2. Better ROE:  Make the most out of your people resources.
  3. Strong Reputation:  When you only do one thing, you naturally start to become associated with that one thing—externally and even internally.  And, eventually you become very good at that one thing.
  4. More Competitive:  As your reputation grows, you begin to own that on thing and your are able to better defend the positioning territory
  5. Bigger and Better P&L:  As the focused effort drives results, it opens up the P&L with higher sales and profits.  And that means more resources will be put to the effort to drive even higher growth.
Invest in Your People:  Better Brand Leaders leads to better work and that leads to better Results 

 

Do you want to be an amazing Brand Leader?  We can help you.  

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

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  gr bbi picWe believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  Our President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com 

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

How strategy can help Start Ups to start right

Entrepreneurs are a different breed.  They have an energy, that has them running full blast with no time to spare.  They have a determination to push as hard as they can to find funding, patents, production and customers.  They are willing to do what it takes and will work to nail down every possible detail on their own.  It’s exhaustive.  And yet, until they sell something they have no revenue to cover all their effort and costs.  All they have is optimism and hope.

I run my own business. Every day I face the same issues you face.  

Entrepreneurs face a ton of pressure. Every friend I meet up with that asks about “starting my own business”, I explain what it’s like, I pause and look them right in the eye and say “it’s not for everyone”. I don’t say that to discourage them, but rather allow them to keep thinking. I mean seriously: a real entrepreneur would just snicker at that comment.

The biggest obstacle is dealing with the pressure.

How you handle that pressure helps to sort out whether you’ll be successful or not.  You have to stay focused on the vision you have for your business. While there are “revenue temptations”, once you deviate off your path it’s harder to get back on that path. Stay focused.

It’s the Idea that counts

It seems to me that most entrepreneurs love watching the “Shark Tank” or “Dragon’s Den”. While it’s reality TV, it’s good entertainment. It provides one great lesson. The winners have an IDEA, beyond just a product. Yes, the product is essential, but if you don’t know who you are, what you can do, who you can serve and how you can serve them, then you will fail.  

When I started my business, one of my mentors said “what are you selling” and my answer was “I’m selling me”. His answer floored me when he said “well then I’m not buying, because I don’t know you and I only buy ideas”. Three weeks later, I came back with the idea of Beloved Brands, and how I would help leaders find more love for their brand, because I can clearly lay out the path from how loved a brand is to how powerful it is and from that power it can make more money. A simple equation:  Love = Power = Profit. While no one wants to buy Graham Robertson, every business leader wants a pathway to making more money.

Most successful brands in history started off as a product that solves a rational problem in the consumers’ life. It’s very likely that the entrepreneur sold the product directly to customers. Over time, they created a logo, narrowed down on a promise based on what was working, they executed better than the competition and gravitated towards creating some type of experience. After a while, the consumer took all this marketing stuff and determined the Idea of the brand. The second generation of the entrepreneur had to do market research to figure out what came naturally to the entrepreneur. And when they figured it out, they realized as the brand become more loved along the way, the brand become an idea that fulfills consumers’ emotional needs.

Slide1

To me, a beloved brand is an idea that’s worth Loving. As a brand generates more love, it gains a positional power versus market forces. It can leverage that power to drive higher rates of growth and higher profits.

But that’s the history of brands. So why not learn from history, and instead of slowly evolving towards an idea, why not just start there and own the evolution, and matching up that logo, promise, execution and experience to the idea.

Get to the idea faster. And you’ll be able to sell that idea with your product.  So, what’s your idea?

Be Strategic

Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions.  They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out.  They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planners who can see connections.  Slide1Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions. They get to answers quickly, and will get frustrated in delays. They opt for action over thinking, believing that doing something is better than doing nothing. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. They can be frustrated by strategic thinkers.

My challenge to all entrepreneurs is while it’s tempting to push hard, you have to stay strategic. Don’t get into the situation where your feet are moving faster than your brain.

Start Up the Right Way

When you decide to go out on your own, you might be starting with some random product you came up with. But now you need a vision of where you want to go. As Yogi Berra said “if you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there”.

Why are you doing this? Push yourself to start with what’s in you:  The most successful brands start with a purpose driven vision (why) and match the strategies (how) and the execution (what) to the vision.

What does success look like? Think of your Vision as an end in mind Achievement towards your purpose. What do you want the brand to become? Think 10 years out: if you became this one thing, you would know that you are successful. Ideally it is Qualitative (yet grounded in something) and quantitative (measurable)  It should be motivating and enticing to get people focused. It should be personal and speak to why you get up in the morning—why you got into this business.

I always like to say “if you woke up on January 1st, 2025 and things on your brand were going well, tell me the 3-5 things that you’d quickly point to as part of that success”. It’s a big huge goal.

Focus! Focus! Focus! Focus!

Yes, I’m empathetic to the entrepreneur who is facing zero revenues and sees that “revenue temptation” in front of them.  It’s ok to go for it, but quickly get back on track. Think of it like a quick detour or hobby. But you have to stay focused.

A good entrepreneur knows who they are selling to, what they are selling, how to sell it and what activities are the best choices. And they don’t deviate.

There are four areas you need to focus:

  • Pick a focused Target Market: While it’s tempting to sell to everyone.  Focus your resources on those most likely to buy. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focus on those that can love you.
  • Pick a focused Brand Positioning: Start with the target market you just picked, and assess their need states to see where you can best match up. Beloved Brands are either better, different or cheaper. Or they are not around for much longer.
  • Pick a Focused Strategy: Brands need to understand where they sit before picking strategies. Evaluate the health of your brand using the Brand Funnel to understand where you are strong and should keep pushing or where you have a weakness (a Leak) that you need to close.
  • Focused Activities: While everyone talks ROI, I talk ROE as well. Return on Effort forces you to prioritize all your activities.

Stay aligned to your plan, and don’t be tempted away from your focus.  When you focus, five things happen.

  1. Better ROI: With all the resources against one strategy, one target, one message, you’ll be find out if the strategy you’ve chose is able to actually move consumers drive sales or other key performance indicators.
  2. Better ROE: Make the most out of your people resources.
  3. Strong Reputation: When you only do one thing, you naturally start to become associated with that one thing—externally and even internally. And, eventually you become very good at that one thing.
  4. More Competitive: As your reputation grows, you begin to own that on thing and your are able to better defend the positioning territory
  5. Bigger and Better P&L: As the focused effort drives results, it opens up the P&L with higher sales and profits. And that means more resources will be put to the effort to drive even higher growth.

At Beloved Brands, we run a one day workshop called “Start Up and Start Right”. It allows you to gain your focus, which makes it easier to articulate your brand’s idea, whether using that to selling your idea into customers or gaining investors to back your idea. Both customers and investors see thousands of ideas every year. Just like “The Shark Tank” and “Dragon’s Den”, they need to see an idea, they need to see someone who is well-organized behind a plan that will be successful. Not many will succeed if they are sloppy and all over the place. They buy the idea!  As a fellow entrepreneur, I know what you’re facing and would love to help get you started in the right direction.  

So, let’s get started!

 

To read more on How to Write a Brand Plan, read the presentation below:

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At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

A powerful vision story about Dan O’Brien, US Olympian

One of the biggest areas I see brands struggling is on the crafting an inspiring Vision Statement. Many don’t have one, and those that do have these long convoluted statements that don’t really say anything. After every stakeholder adds their own two cents and it’s no longer a vision. Pretty soon, your attempt at a vision looks more like a local bi-law explaining where you can fish, land your airplane and display real estate signs all in one statement. A smart vision statement should inspire and focus your team. Let me tell you the story about Dan O’Brien and a little piece of paper that steered him to achieving everything he wanted.

The story of Olympian, Dan O’Brien

He was a U.S. track and field superstar back in the 1990s.  He competed in the Decathlon and won pretty much everything: World Champion, Olympic Champion, US Champion and World Record Holder that would stand for 10 years–a lifetime in the track and field world.  

Dan Obrien’s backstory

Even though he met tremendous success in his track career, it didn’t really get off to a great start. O’Brien went to the University of Idaho on a track scholarship. He struggled with classes, excelled at partying, lost the scholarship and flunked out. “I was just not prepared for what it took academically,” he recalls. “I’d get so far behind, I’d just give up.”  

O’Brien went to work as a cabinetmaker in Moscow, Idaho. He fell into debt, kited checks and wound up in jail wearing a blue jumpsuit and flip-flops. Later, there was a DUI arrest. He was clearly at rock bottom and needed some inspiration to get himself out.  

At his lowest point, O’Brien attended a decathlon clinic run by MILT CAMPBELL, the 1956 Olympic gold medalist, who asked each decathlete whether he had written his goals on a piece of paper and placed it his wallets. O’Brien said he immediately went to his room and wrote “9,000 points” on one side of a small piece of paper and “world’s greatest athlete” on the other.

The piece of paper steered him to achieve.

“I wouldn’t have achieved what I have if I hadn’t set those goals,” he said. “I was a floater and as soon as I set solid goals, I could achieve what I wanted.”

With 9,000 points that would be the clear world record holder for decades to come. World’s Greatest Athlete was always given to the reigning world champion of the Decathlon. He kept that paper with him as inspiration and direction. Dan O’Brien didn’t know, but he had written a vision statement.

As he climbed out of his struggles, he went to a Junior College, starting to compete again. He then started to compete on the world stage, keeping that note in his pocket. By 1991, he won the World Championships Decathlon completing half of his Vision Statement. His career was moving full steam ahead.  

Qualifying for the Olympics

In 1992, he was now at the US Qualifying event to get into the Barcelona Olympics. As the current reigning world champion, it was natural that the US Olympic team was relying on O’Brien to make the team and bring home Gold for the Americans. Same with TV networks, sponsors and event organizers.

At the Qualifying meet for the US Team, O’Brien was in first place after 7 of the 10 events, looking as a shoe-in for the team. But then came the high jump. O’Brien made what seemed like an odd choice of going for a higher height than he needed to and he never cleared the bar after the required number of attempts. He went from 1st place to 15th and missed qualifying for the Games.

People were stunned and confused. Why would he go for the higher height, instead of settling for something that would keep him in contention to qualify? Well, it comes back to the second part of his vision statement: 9,000 points. Based on where he stood after 7 events, Dan’s calculations showed that he could only get to 9,000 points if he made the higher jump. Yes, high risk, high reward. But it was in line with his vision.

Afterall, Dan didn’t have “Olympic Champion” on his little piece of paper.  

Not qualifying for the games was a bit of a disaster for Reebok who had put all their money into O’Brien. The US Olympic team was mad, fans were upset and NBC was furious. But Dan kept pushing towards that dream of 9,000 points. Only 3 months after the Barcelona Olympics, O’Brien set a world record of 8,860 points, a record that would stand for a decade. And in 1996, he would go on and win Olympic Gold for his country.  

Why I love this story so much?

First, if you put everything in your vision statement it gets so watered down. He could have put a laundry list, including Olympic Champion, Millions in endorsements, make tons of money and win every event. But then it would just be he achieved 3 out of 5 things on his list.  

But he decided to focus on what motivated him. While you might wish he won the 1992 Olympic Gold, it wasn’t on his piece of paper. He left off what wasn’t important and stuck to it. You should do the same and you’ll find your vision statement offers you both focus and inspiration.  

A good vision should scare you a little bit and it should excite you a lot.  

A vision should open your mind up. It should challenge your thinking. Stretch you to think of things not immediately within reach.  

When Dan O’Brien looks back on his career, we can see how that little piece of paper drove him. The fact that he’ll never reach his dream score of 9,000 points in decathlon rubs like a blister: “I came up short because I set the goal too low,” O’Brien says, grinning. “If I had tried to make 9,200, I might have got the 9,000.”

So how can you use this story to challenge yourself and your team to ask: what’s would be on your piece of paper?

How to find your brand vision

A well-written brand vision should be the ultimate end-in-mind achievement, which answers, “Where could we be?” Think about significant accomplishments that would make you feel completely fulfilled. Put a stake in the ground to describe an ideal state for your future. Every smart brand plan must start with a brand vision statement. When I see brand teams who struggle, they usually lack a brand vision.

Some organizations get so fixated on achieving short-term goals; they chase every tactic in front of them just to make their numbers. Your vision should steer your entire brand plan. Choose the language and phrases within your vision that will inspire, lead, and steer your team.

Examples of best-in-class brand vision statements

Use these statements to inspire you as you write your own vision statement. Maybe you will see something that feels familiar to what is in your mind or at least a structure for how you would write your own vision statement.

Your vision should scare you a little and excite you a lot. You should wonder if you can achieve it and then think of how it would feel if you did. While we do not always accomplish every vision, we rarely achieve more than we thought was possible.

Once you establish your vision, it sets up the key issues of your plan, including obstacles in the way of achieving your vision, which then sets up the strategies for how to reach the vision. As mentioned earlier, a brand plan has to flow like an orchestra, with each element directly related to the others.

Imagine the perfect picture

To be a visionary, you must be able to visualize your future. You should be able to imagine the perfect picture of your brand in the future, to helps answer, “Where could we be?” Imagine it is five or ten years from now. You wake up in the most fantastic mood. Think about where you are in your personal life and your business life. Start to imagine an ideal state of what you want. Visualize a perfect future of what has you in such a good mood and write down the most important things you want to achieve. 

  1. What is your future revenue or market share?
  2. Describe the future culture of your company.
  3. What do you want people to say about your brand? 
  4. What do your own to people find motivating about working on your brand?
  5. How do you want customers to describe their experience with your brand?
  6. Name some of the future accomplishments that would make you proud.
  7. What do you do better than anyone else on the planet?
  8. Name something out-of-the-box that would make people talk about your brand.

Checklist for what makes a vision great:

  • Your vision should last 5-10 years.
  • It should help you imagine the ideal picture of “where could we be.”
  • Describe your dream, describing what you see, feel, hear, think, say and wish for your brand.
  • It should be emotional to motivate all employees and partners to rally behind it.
  • It must be easy to understand, in plain words, which may already be a familiar phrase within the company.
  • A great vision is a balance between aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement).
  • Consider adding a financial (sales or profit) or share leadership position (#1) number.

Cautions and caveats when writing your brand vision statements:

  1. A vision should not be a positioning statement.
  2. Make sure you have not already achieved it.
  3. Do not make strategic statements. It is not the “how.”
  4. Try to be single-minded. Keep tightening it. Do not include everything!
  5. Focus on how to build a purpose-driven beloved brand

What’s on your piece of paper you’d put in your pocket?  

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
 

Does a Brand Vision statement matter?

The Vision for the Toronto Maple Leafs

I love asking people “Do you think the Toronto Maple Leafs had a good year last year?”.  For non-hockey fans, the Leafs would be like the Chicago Cubs in baseball or  Aston Villa in the English Premier League.  My beloved Leafs are the only NHL team who has not made the playoffs since 2004, and they have not won a championship since 1967.  The last two seasons they finished 29th and 25th out of 30 teams.  That’s really pathetic.

So did the Leafs have a good year?   It depends on what you think the brand vision is?    If you think the Leafs Vision is to Win the Stanley Cup, then it’s been an obvious disaster. But if you think the Leafs Vision is to be the Most Valued Sports Franchise, then it’s been an amazing year, just like the past 8 years. In those eight years of hockey despair, overall revenue has gone up from $117 million to $190 million while costs have gone down from $69 million to $57 million. That’s a P&L the people of Price Waterhouse dream about.  The resulting brand value has seen the Leafs go from $263 million in 2003 up to $521 million–making it the #1 value valued team in hockey. Eight years of missing the playoffs and the value of the team has nearly doubled.  Instead of firing everyone, they should be handing out the bonus cheques. They still have a long way to reach the NY Yankees Value of $2.2 Billion.  

Does a Vision Statement Pay Out?

Companies that have Vision Statements have a better sense of where they are going. And the proof is there that it pays off for companies with a Vision.

  • Harvard Study across 20 industries looking at businesses showed that companies with Vision Statements saw their revenue grew more than four times faster; job creation was seven times higher; their stock price grew 12 times faster; and profit performance was 750% higher.
  • Newsweek looked at 1000 companies with Vision Statements had an average return on stockholder equity of 16.1%, while firms without them had only a 7.9% average return.
  • “Built to Last” showed that for companies with Vision Statements, that a $1 investment in 1926 would have returned $6,350 compared to only a return of $950 for comparable companies without a Vision.

The Vision and Mission help to frame the overall Brand Plan

Think of the Vision as the End in Mind Achievement towards your purpose.  What do you want the brand to become?  Think 10 years out: if you became this one thing, you would know that you are successful.  Ideally it is Qualitative (yet grounded in something) and quantitative (measurable)  It should be motivating and enticing to get people focused. It should be personal and speak to why you get up in the morning—why you got into this business.

The Mission is the Special Assignment. It should be tightly connected to the vision, but is more likely a 1-3 year direction—if a vision is a destination, then a mission is the how or the major milestone on the path towards that vision. A mission statement focuses on a company’s present state while a vision statement focuses on a company’s future.

Things that Make a Good vision: 

  1. Easy for employees and partners to understand and rally around
  2. Think about something that can last 5-10 years or more
  3. Balance between aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement)
  4. It’s ok to embed a financial ($x) or share position (#1) element into it as long as it’s important for framing the vision.

The watch outs for vision statements:

  1. It’s not a positioning statement.  Almost positioning neutral  Let the positioning come out in the strategy.
  2. Make sure we haven’t achieved it already.  If you are #1, then don’t put “be #1”.
  3. Don’t put strategic statements.  Vision answers “where could we be” rather than “how can we get there”
  4. Try to be single-minded:  Tighten it up and don’t include everything!!   Can you say it in an elevator.  Can you actually remember it?  Can you yell it at a Sales meeting?

Purpose Driven Visions: The Power of Why

More companies are reaching for their purpose answering the simple question:  “why do we do what we do”.  Why do you exist?  What’s your Purpose or Cause?  Start with what’s in you.  Why do you wake up in the morning or why did you start this company long ago?  Simon Sinek, the Author “The Power of Why” says the most successful brands start with a purpose driven vision (why) and match the strategies (how) and the execution (what) to the vision.

Using the Apple brand as an example, Sinek talks about the “Why” for Apple as challenging the status quo, and thinking differently.  People at Apple want to make a dent in the universe.  The “How” is making sure our products are all beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.  Since people buy into the why and the how of Apple and want to be a part of it, it matters less “What” they do and they’ll follow them as they move to new categories.  As Sinek says “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.

Vision and Employees

A well-articulated vision can really make a difference for employees, giving them both a challenge and focus to what they do each day.  For service driven companies, where people are the brand it becomes essential.  Adding in brand values and even service values can assist people in knowing what they should be doing each day and how they should be doing it.  For a product driven brand, it can help all drive focus for all those working around the brand whether that’s ad agencies, R&D, sales or operations.

To see how a Brand Vision helps to frame the brand plan, read the following presentation: 

 

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  Click on any of the topics below:

To see the training presentations, visit the Beloved Brands Slideshare site at: http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations

If you or team has any interest in a training program, please contact me at graham@beloved-brands.com

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