My hope is that these white papers can help you and your teams improve. They should challenge your thinking or inspire you to keep pushing towards doing great work. I write these to the audience of Brand Leaders, from someone who has led brands at every level, from ABM to VP.
What makes a Beloved Brand?
The more loved a Brand, then the more powerful and valuable that Brand is. In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand.
With each stage of the Brand Love Curve, the consumer will see your brand differently. The worst case is when consumers have “no opinion” of your brand. They just don’t care. It’s like those restaurants you stop at in the middle of no-where that are called “restaurant”. In those cases, there is no other choice so you may as well just name it restaurant. But in highly competitive markets, you survive by being liked, but you thrive by being loved. Be honest with yourself as to what stage you are at, and try to figure out how to be more loved, with a vision of getting to the Beloved Brand stage.
As a rule, everything starts and ends with the consumer in mind. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. And then find a way to match up your brand’s natural strengths to what your consumer is looking for, to develop a competitive advantage that you can satisfy better than anyone else. Talk in terms of benefits, a balance of rational and emotional. If you keep talking features, you’ll never truly capture the consumer. They don’t care about what you do, until they get something from it. You have to intimately know your consumer and build a relationship with consumers. It’s that relationship at that Love It stage that becomes a source of power, which can be leveraged to gain share, drive sales, increase price or extend usage, all of which helps to drive growth and profits which then has an impact on the overall value for their brand. Execution matters as much as strategy. There’s a certain magic in the way a brand strategies can be executed to connect with the consumer. The more you love your work, the more they’ll love your brand.
How to think strategically
Learn about a new way to think strategically or just to challenge your strategic mind. There are four elements to help you:
- 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. Make tough choices and opt be loved by the few rather than tolerated by the many.
- 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. Without the early win, you’ll likely seek out some new strategy even a sub-optimal one. Or someone in management will say “it’s not working”. You don’t want either of those–so the early win helps keep people moving towards the big win.
- 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. This is where strategy provides that return–you get more than the effort you’re doing from it.
- Seeing beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, which is 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.
How to drive profits through your brand
How the Love for a Brand Impacts on Profitability
You should be looking at your business through the lens of your brand. Yes, the brand promise sets up how the external community views your brand whether that’s consumers, customers or key influencers. It’s the consistency in delivering the promise that connects consumers with your brand, both emotionally and rationally, letting it become a part of their lives. But equally so, brand becomes an internal beacon to help guide behaviour, decisions, action, structure and the formation of a culture. You should drive your growth and profitability through your brand, with a focus on driving share, enhancing price while managing costs and finding new markets.
Consumer’s love is a source of power, changing the dynamic versus the channel, suppliers, competitors and even the consumers.
- Consumers feel more and think less. It’s a part of them. They are fans, craving the brand and build it into their life. They can’t live without the brand. It becomes easier to charge consumers a premium for your brand. You can drive more sales per consumer creating a routine; you can easily convert them to a broader portfolio of your brands with new product launches.
- The Channel needs the brand, caters to them, cannot stand up to them. With a beloved brand, it becomes well known that consumers would switch customers before switching brands. This leaves the channel less powerful in negotiations and will give the beloved brand preferential treatment. Price increases, lower trade percentages, trade support and success of new launches all impact the P&L positively.
- Suppliers are at the mercy of the brand. In pure economics, the higher volumes give you efficiencies to drive down costs and increase your margins. But even more, suppliers build their business completely around the brand and can’t get out. Pushing the suppliers to cut costs has a big impact on COGs.
- Agencies will want to be part of the brand. Program costs should be more efficient not just on the volume but on agencies reducing their own margins/pricing in order to have your brand on their client roster. At the agency, the best creative people will want to work on the beloved brand. This can positively impact program costs—including lower fees, production costs or access to better talent.
- It becomes hard for New Brands to break through. New brand starts in the rational position making it difficult to break the emotional bond the Beloved Brand has created. It has to be significantly better to even gain consideration because the consumer isn’t as rational as they are emotional in their decision making. The Beloved Brand can maintain their share by holding on to the very loyal base of consumers.
- No real Competitive Substitutes can match. It becomes less about product and more about connection and how consumer feels though the brand. The Beloved Brand has a Monopoly on feelings. Takes away ability to substitute to compete. It’s less about rational points of difference, even going beyond the emotional differences that can be expressed. It becomes about the experience and the perceptions. The
- Beloved Brand can easily steal share, drive users to use more and even create new uses that directly impact the competitors within the scope of the Beloved Brand.
- Special Treatment from Earned and influenced Media. Traditional Media is more likely to give lower rates based on volume. But they’ll look for alternative sponsorship or special arrangements for a brand that is loved. They see the benefits of association and will push to have that brand part of their brand.
- With the news media, the moves of Beloved Brand become newsworthy and will have an easier time gaining a return on a PR push. Within the social media area, Beloved Brands are more likely to be liked, shared or searched. This gives the Beloved Brand a much more efficient spending to sales ratios.
Most marketers will tell you that branding is about positioning. I think positioning is a means to driving growth and making money.
Having a successful career in Marketing
At every level you have to adjust to the new role. Brand Managers fail when they keep acting like ABMs and Directors fail when they keep acting like Brand Managers and VPs fail when they don’t know what to do. In a classic marketing team, the four key roles are Assistant Brand Manager up to Brand Manager then up to Marketing Director and on to the VP Marketing role.
In simple terms of the roles:
- Assistant Brand Manager: It’s about doing; analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future. It’s not an easy job and only 50% get promoted to Brand Manager.
- Brand Manager: It becomes about ownership and strategic thinking within your brand plan. Most Brand Managers are honestly a disaster with their first direct report, and get better around the fifth report. The good ones let the ABM do their job; the bad ones jump in too much, frustrated and impatient rather than acting as a teacher.
- Marketing Director: It’s more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing. Your role is to set the standard and then hold everyone to that standard. To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best. Let your best people shine, grow and push you.
- VP Marketing: It’s about leadership, vision and getting the most from people. If you are good at it, you won’t need to do any marketing, other than challenging and guiding your people to do their best work. You have to deliver the results, and very few figure out the equation that the better the people means the better the work and in the end the better the results. Invest in training as a way to motivate your team and keep them engaged. Use teaching moments to share your wisdom.
One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve which shows up at every level. The basic rule of the Idiot Curve is: You get dumber before you get smarter. When you first land the ABM job, there’s just so much to learn, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day. It’s over-whelming at first, and yet you see all these other ABMs doing it so that’s even more intimidating. But the idiot curve is inevitable. It just shows up differently for each person. No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve. (But, please fight through the curve; you have to for your survival) The Idiot Curve normally lasts up to 3 months, and then things just start to click. And you’ll experience it in a new and exciting way you can’t even predict.
But the Idiot Curve shows up again in the first few months of each level. In the first few months as a Brand Manager, they keep doing the ABM role because that’s what they know. They frustrate the hell out of their ABM. They keep recommending and acting small rather than start deciding and stepping up to the leadership role. At the Director role, they continue to be the Brand Manager. They get nervous where they shouldn’t, whether it’s with senior people in other functions or even within marketing. They prefer to keep doing, and in those moment there is nothing “to do”, they walk around and start doing other people’s jobs. At the VP level,the first few months are lonely as you no longer have peers you can bounce ideas off. Your peers assume you can do the job, and they don`t want to hear your problems. At each level, you secretly feel like an Idiot. You don’t want it to show, but in a way, you should use it to your advantage.