Coca-Cola case study: Ten lessons from the best Coke ads of all time

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Over the past 100 years, Coca-Cola has been the best advertising brand. Sure, Nike and Apple have battled for the best over the past 40 years, but they’d need to get to 2080 before challenging Coke. 

There is a lesson we can see with Coke advertising. Coca-Cola advertising has been remarkably consistent in strategy, yet never duplicates in creativity. With so many Coke ads in the marketplace, Coke needs to stay creatively fresh to surprise and delight consumers to keep their brand loved by so many.

Two hands

Looking at the two hands above, this Coke ad out of France is one of my favorites. It tells such a powerful story of peace and harmony, without any words. It is obviously a Coke ad, yet there is no package shot or logo. Most importantly, when I show this in one of my training sessions or talks, I ask the room, “how many of you would say you love this ad?” And about 30-40% always raise their hands. When I ask how many do not like it, about 10-15% raise their hands. Getting that many consumers to love your ad is phenomenal. It is always important to remember that Advertising can and should be a little bit polarizing. 

First lesson: It is better to be loved by a few than tolerated by many.

Teach the world to sing

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Coke’s “teach the world to sing” is one of the best ads ever. Back in 1971, we had many of the same tensions around the world we feel today. Hippies and college campuses fighting against the Vietnam War, political heroes assassinated, and the cold war in full force. Along comes Coke with an overly wholesome, peace-loving, multi-cultural ad that worked. It was pure magic. As consumers, we wanted what the world Coke was projecting.  

Second lesson: Advertising should not only reflect culture but can lead culture.

Santa Clause

1931 Santa

1950 Santa

1962 Santa

How you imagine Santa likely comes from Haddon Sundblom’s version in the Coca-Cola ads that ran in magazines from the 1930s through the 1960s. His jolly depiction of Santa has stood for generations. Coke continues to use Santa in its advertising, in-store displays, and on its packaging.

Third lesson: As brands build a library of distinctive creative assets, owning the visualization of Santa is one of the best assets to have. 

Mean Joe

Coke Super Bowl ad
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Coke’s “Mean Joe Greene” ad was the first real Super Bowl ad in 1980. At the time, Mean Joe was near the end of his Hall of Fame career. He earned his nickname. The magic of this ad is the storytelling of this sweet child versus the tired, cranky football player. 

Fourth lesson: Storytelling builds emotion with consumers

"No Labels"

Coca Cola Best Ads
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Coke takes a chance with a very serious subject: prejudice. During Ramadan of 2015, Coke Middle East created this 3-minute video with six strangers invited to an Iftar in the dark. While the tone might be surprising for Coke, the ending leaves you feeling the same ‘feel-good’ emotions we feel with many Coke ads. Coke is one of the most global brands, and allowing your regional marketers to create something specific to their region is essential. This video received over 20 million viewed on YouTube. 

Fifth lesson: Let your regions tell you what will work with their consumers. 

Can you see a bottle?

I love this outdoor ad, an optical illusion that makes your eye look twice to see if there really is a bottle. Well, it is not. With so many brand fans, it is important to have a little bit of fun with them. 

Sixth lesson: I have always said, “if we are having fun, so is our consumer.”

Polar Bears

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My marketing career coincided with the Coke Polar Bears. It seems every focus group warmup, we’d ask consumers a few ads they liked, and it was “polar bears, polar bears, polar bears.” 

Sure, the polar bears won’t win a Cannes Award, stretch your mind or change culture. But consumers love the damn polar bears, so give them the polar bears.  

Seventh lesson: Don’t overthink what consumers already tell you they love.

Coca Cola in Saint Mark's Square, Venice, 1960

If you have been to Saint Mark’s Square in Venice, you likely know there are a ton of pigeons. The creativity of a mind that thinks to spread grains for pigeons in the shape of Coca Cola is beyond incredible.

Eighth lesson: Foster an environment that rewards creativity, and your most creative people will shock you with what they are capable of doing.

Share a Coke

When I first saw Coke bottles’ names, my immediate reaction was to think of the strained logistics of forecasting.  I missed out on how big the idea could be. Then I found myself buying a bottle with my kid’s name on it. I learned to love this idea. 

Ninth lesson: Take a chance on something creative, even if it is hard to do.

In-store displays

Over the years, I always felt Coke and Gillette were the best in building in-store displays. Look at the amazing creativity in making the polar bear display to match up to the advertising or the heart for Valentine’s Day. 

Tenth lesson: Let everyone who works on the brand share in delivering the creativity of the brand. 

Consistency in execution is driven with understanding the benefit clusters you can win

At Beloved Brands, our brand positioning process uses a functional benefit cheat sheet and an emotional benefit cheat sheet. We encourage brands to look to 3 functional zones and 3 emotional zones. Then add words around to create benefit clusters. Have a look at what we see Coke’s clusters. As long as they stay in that space, they should approve the execution. This enables your creative people to stay on strategy, yet have room to maneuver. 

You can click on either cheat sheet to get a close-up look. 

  • With the functional benefits, Coke should focus on sensory appeal, staying connected and the experiences around Coke. We classify these three as the social and sense of belonging rational benefits. 
  • With the emotional benefits, Coke should focus on feeling liked, free or getting noticed. We see these benefits most closely linked with self-expression. 

To read more about our brand positioning process:

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Build your marketing skills with our post on how to define your Brand Positioning

One of the most important skills marketers need to know is the fundamentals of creating a brand positioning that will set up your brand to win in the marketplace. Read our step-by-step process to learn how to define your brand with a balance of functional benefits and emotional benefits. The ideal brand positioning matches what consumers want with what your brand does best.

The difference between a disruptor brand and a challenger brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Every day I see people mess up by randomly using the key marketing words disruptor brand and challenger brand. I guess these words seem to convey an attitude that makes people think they are buzz words. But when it comes to strategy, they are quite different. The common link is they both take on an aggressive war games approach.

To be a disruptor brand, you must take on an entire category, by appearing so new and different. Once consumers see what they offer, all the current players seem outside of what consumers now want. The disruptor brand is a blue ocean strategy, so different, they appear to be alone on an island, far away from any competitors. Current competitors have two options to the disruptor; ignore or attack back. The problem is they are not be prepared to attack back. Any attempt to try to oppress the disruptor brand brings attention to the disruptor and fuels their cause.

On the other hand, the challenger brand takes on the leading power player brand and shifts the perception of the leader, and set themselves up as the winner of this war. A challenger brand is a red ocean strategy, so close to the category leader, they are defiant in their attack. The category leader has two choices to fight the challenger brand; attack back or be killed. This is the reason I always say that a challenger brand should reposition the leader’s strength into a weakness, as it handcuffs the leader’s ability for the brand to attack back.

Evolution of brand strategy

Brands must evolve their strategy as they move from the craft brand to the power player brand

Many brands start in someone’s garage or over a kitchen table at midnight. Start-ups should deploy a craft brand strategy. To stand out, you must be utterly different to a core group of trend influencers who are frustrated with the major competitors.  

As your brand grows, you can transition to a disruptor brand strategy. Utilize your core audience of trend influencers to gain a core base of early adopters. While a craft brand attracts the attention of trend influencers, the disruptor brand must dial up their aggressive stance and call out the major brands.  

As your brand continues to grow, you can use your increased resources and power to take on a challenger brand strategy against the leader. You can use the influence of the trend influencers and early adopters to attract the early mass audience.

The most successful brands end up a conglomerate

At the power player stage, the strategy shifts to maintaining your leadership position. You should take on a defensive strategy, to attack in response to any player who threatens your brand. While the trend influencers and early adopters played a considerable role in making the brand a household name, you have to be comfortable that your earliest brand fans will eventually leave your brand and look for what is next. 

How to find your space in the market to win

To find the competitive space in which your brand can win, I introduce a Venn diagram of competitive situations that we will use throughout this discussion.  

You will see three circles. To start, look at the first circle that comprises everything your consumer wants or needs. Next, layer in the second circle that includes everything your brand does best, including consumer benefits, product features or proven claims. And, finally, the third circle lists what your competitor does best.

Your brand’s winning zone (in green), is the space that matches up “What consumers want” with “What your brand does best.” This space provides you a distinct positioning you can own and defend from attack. You must be able to satisfy the consumer needs better than any other competitor can.

Your brand will not survive by trying to compete in the losing zone (in red), which is the space that matches the consumer needs with “What your competitor does best.” When you play in this space, your competitor will beat you every time.

Competing in a mature market

As markets mature, competitors copy each other. It has become harder to be better with a definitive product win. Many brands have to play in the risky zone (in grey), which is the space where you and your competitor both meet the consumer’s needs in a relative tie.

There are four ways you can win the risky zone:

  1. First, use your brand’s power in the market to squeeze out smaller, weaker brands.
  2. Second, be the first to capture that space to earn a reputation you can defend
  3. Next, you can win with innovation and creativity to make your brand seem unique
  4. Finally, you can build a deeper emotional connection to make your brand seem different

The dumb zone

Sadly, I always have to mention the dumb zone (in blue) where two competitors “battle it out” in the space consumers do not care.  One competitor says, “We are faster,” and the other brand says, “We are just as fast.” No one bothered to ask the consumer if they care about speed. Both brands are dumb.

What is a challenger brand?

Challenger brands must change the playing field by amplifying what your brand does best while simultaneously repositioning the power player brand you want to take down.

While your first instinct would be to attack the power player’s weakness, the smarter move is to reposition one of the power player’s well-known strengths into a perceived weakness. This strategy helps move the power player brand outside of what consumers want.

Focus your attack

When you attack a power player brand, be ready for the leader’s potential defensive moves and anticipate a response with full force, as the power player brand has more significant resources than you. You also need to be highly confident that your attack will make a positive impact before you begin to enter into a war. The worst situation is to start a war you cannot win, as it will drain your brand’s limited resources, only to end up with the same market share after the war.

Since the power player leader tries to be everything to everyone, you can narrow your attack to slice off those consumers who are frustrated with the leading brand. Tap into their frustration to help kickstart a migration of consumers away from the leader. If you can gain these lost consumers, you can quickly change share positions.

Example of challenger brands

One of the best examples of a challenger brand that made significant gains is the Pepsi Challenge from the 1970s. It was a direct offensive attack on Coke. In blind taste tests, Pepsi was the preferred brand. Pepsi is a much sweeter taste, so in a quick hit, it was the chosen brand. Coke is an acquired and memorable taste. The blind taste test took away the Coke brand name and the emotional feelings of that brand. 

At the same time, Pepsi amplified its strength as the “new generation” and positioned the brand as the solution to consumers ready to reject the “old taste” of Coke. This approach was so powerful it was even a contributing factor to the launch of a sweeter “New Coke.”

What is a disruptor brand?

Disruptor brands move into a blue ocean space, all by themselves. They use a new product, distribution channel, target market or price point. And, they are so different they appear to be the only brand that can satisfy the consumer’s changing needs.

When successful, the disruptor brand repositions the major players, making them appear unattached to consumers.

While everyone wants a game-changer, it is a high-risk, high-reward competitive situation. The trick is you have to be “so different” to catch the consumer’s attention and mindshare. Being profoundly different increases the risk you may fail. Also, your success may invite other entrants to follow. At that point, you become the new power player of the new segment. You have to continue attacking the major players while defending against new entrants who attack your brand.

Examples of disruptor brands

Uber, Netflix, and Airbnb are contemporary brands that effectively use modern technology to create such a unique offering. They cast major category-leading brands or entire industries as outdated and outside what consumers want.

Uber disrupted the taxi market, Netflix is revolutionizing the way we watch TV, and Airbnb has had a dramatic impact on hotels. These brands have a smarter ordering system, better service levels, and significantly lower prices. It leaves the previous leaders struggling to fight back.

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Who is the enemy that torments your consumers every day?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained
Consumer Insight

Who is your consumer’s enemy? While products solve small problems, the best brands beat down the enemy that torments their consumers every day. Put yourself in the shoes of your consumer and find their most significant frustration pain point they feel no one is even noticing or addressing. 

The Starbucks consumer

Put yourself in the shoes of the Starbucks consumer, a 38-year-old mom with two kids. She wakes up at 6:15 a.m. to get ready for work and get everyone in the house prepared for their day. She drops off one kid at daycare at 7:30 a.m., the other at the public school at 7:45 a.m. then rushes to the office by 8:30 a.m. She drives a van, not because she wants to but because it is excellent for carrying equipment for after-school activities, including soccer, dance, tutoring and ice hockey. Her only tokens of appreciation are hugs at the end of a long day. Just after getting both kids to bed, she collapses into her bed, exhausted.

Who is the enemy of the Starbucks consumer? A hectic life

While Starbucks helps consumers who don’t have enough time in life, the Starbucks brand beats down the enemy of the hectic life that torments consumers everyday.  

The Starbucks brand fights the consumer enemy, by providing a 15-minute moment of escape between work and home. Starbucks has no children’s playground, just lovely leather seats. No loud screams, just soft acoustic music. The cool 21-year-old college student not only knows their name but their favorite drink. 

Your consumer’s enemy

The enemy should open you up into a creative space a bit more which allows you to be more emotional in your work. 

While the Tide product helps consumers with the problem grass stains, the Tide brand battles the enemy of the judgment of their mother in law, who torments them with guilt. 

While the Volvo product addresses safety concerns, the Volvo brand beats down the fear that consumers have of the mindless drivers who torment them every day on the roads.

If you want to understand your consumer’s pain points, think of how you would project their enemy and express how your brand fights that enemy on their behalf. Shifting from solving a rational consumer problem to beating down an emotional consumer enemy is the starting point to reaching into the emotional need state of your consumer. 

Disney fights off the consumer enemy of “growing up.” Nike fights the consumer enemy of “losing.” Apple fights off the consumer enemy of “frustration with computers.”

Apple fights off the enemy of frustration

Unless you work in IT, you likely find computers extremely frustrating. 

We have all sat at our computer, wanting to pull our hair out. Examples of computer frustration include spending 38 minutes to figure out how to print, getting error message 6303 that says “close all files open and reboot,” or if you have ever bought a new computer and you need to load up 13 disks and three manuals to read before you can even email your friend to tell them how amazing your computer is. 

Apple has recognized the frustration that consumers go through. They capitalized on the enemy of frustration with PCs with the famous TV campaign of “Hi I’m a Mac,….and I’m a PC”, helping to demonstrate the many issues around computer set up, viruses, and trying to make the most of your computer.  As soon as you open the box, you can use the new computer. Macs are intuitive, aligned to how consumers think, not how IT people think. You can even take classes to learn.

Yes, the Apple product is about computers, tablets, and phones. The Apple brand beats down the consumer’s frustration with technology that torments them every time they grab their phone or turn on their computer. This sets up the brand idea that Apple makes technology so simple that everyone can feel part of the future.  

How can you project your consumer's enemy that you are fighting on their behalf?

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LA 2028 Olympics wants to show the real LA to the world

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

LA 2028 has released their logo and launch video, giving us a first glimpse of how their idea that they’ll “show the world the real LA.”
First, there is always a keen debate over the Olympic logo. Uniquely, the LA 2028 Olympics committee will use multiple logos that will reflect the diversity of LA. You can see the “A” changes to represent various Los Angeles-based athletes and creators’ personalities and styles. Over the next eight years, we might see many different logos.

It seems to be a new trend to play with logos. Watch the past year of Apple ads and you might see ten different treatments. 

Fittingly LA, the launch taps into a list of stars that includes singer Billie Eilish, gymnast Gabby Douglas, movie star Reese Witherspoon, graffiti artist Chaz Bojórquez, YouTube star Lilly Singh, and a team of hopeful Olympic athletes.

Considering how many version of LA we might have in our heads, whether it is the Dodgers, Rams, Lakers or Kings, they have found a distinct look and feel. I like the variety as well. 

LA 2028 launch video

Moreover, they have launched a video that speaks to their brand idea of “showing the real LA to the world.” 

LA 2028 Olympics
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The video feels a bit too safe, which takes away from the promise of showing the real LA. The visuals start OK, but then it shifts into a generic Nike ad. First, I would prefer it if they used an edgier voice-over. Second, they should use an engaging music track that could deliver the REAL LA. 

I believe the brand idea of “show the real LA to the world” is an amazing opportunity that should open up creative teams to deliver even better creativity than this opening video. 
Brand Idea: 9.5 / 10
Logo: 9.0 / 10
Video: 7.0 / 10

My bias is #WeTheNorth

Nothing beats the Toronto Raptors video that showcases the real Toronto to the world. The tone is defiantly edgy, competitively challenging, and continues to represent the fans of the Toronto Raptors. We have eight more years. Maybe LA 2028 can do something this good. This video is a 10 out of 10!!!

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How to write a strategy statement to use in your brand plan

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Your strategy statement in your brand plan answer, “How can we get there?” Each strategy statement must provide a clear, definitive answer to each of your key issues.

When I was in business school, I had a marketing professor who would say 15 times per class, “It is all about choices. It is all about choices.”

The brand plan is a great tool to force you to make tough decisions, as you apply your brand’s limited resources of dollars, time, people, and partnerships against an unlimited number of choices. It is easy to get distracted by more and more options. 

However, brand leaders must use the brand plan process to limit their choices down to those that move your brand along the pathway towards your stated brand vision. Choose the strategic options that provide the highest return on effort (ROE) or the highest return on investment (ROI). 

To show you how to write your strategy statements, we’ll use our five elements of strategy that includes laying out a vision, investing limited resources into strategic programs, bringing a focus on an identified opportunity, making a market impact, and realizing the performance result that makes your brand stronger and wealthier. 

Strategic thinkers see questions before they see solutions

Ever hear someone say, “That’s a good question.” It usually means someone has just asked an interruptive question, designed to slow everyone’s thinking, so they reflect and plan before they act. The strategic thinking side of marketing is logical and has to map out a range of decision trees that intersect, by imagining how events will play out in the future. The risk of being only strategic is that, if you think too long, you may spiral around, unable to decide. Moreover, you may miss an opportunity window.

Everyone says they are a strategic thinker, yet few are. To learn strategic thinking, we need to slow down and organize our thoughts. 

Here are the five elements that make up smart strategic thinking:

  1. Set a vision of what you want for your brand. A vision sets aspirational stretch goals for the future, linked to a clear result or purpose. Write a vision statement in a way that scares you a little and excites you a lot. It should steer everyone who works on the brand to focus on finding ways to create a bond with your consumers that will lead to power and profit beyond what the product alone could achieve.
  2. Invest resources in a strategic program. Think through the options of where you should invest in moving your brand into a more powerful and profitable position. The programs you choose should solidify the brand’s core strength, build a brand idea that tightens the consumer bond, battle competitors on positioning, or address the situational challenges and opportunities.
  3. Focus on an identified opportunity. Focus your limited resources on a distinct opportunity you have identified based on a potential change in the market, including changes to consumers, competitive situation, technology, or sales channels. 
  4. Leverage the breakthrough market impact. A smart strategy turns an early breakthrough win into a shift in momentum, positional power, or tipping point where you begin to achieve more in the marketplace than the resources you put in.
  5. Performance result that pays back. The shift in positional power in the marketplace moves your brand toward your vision and creates a future pathway to building a consumer bond, brand power, and brand profitability. 

 

How to turn thinking into strategic objective statements

Let’s now look at how to turn your smart strategic thinking into writing a strategic objective statement that can provide specific marching orders to everyone who works on the brand. Below is the classic way to lay out a brand vision, key issue question and the strategic objective statement. 

The process covers all five elements of smart strategic thinking. You can see the brand vision, and key issue statement covers the first strategic element. However, you need the strategic objective statement to cover off the remaining four other strategic elements, including the program investment, focused opportunity, market impact, and the performance result.

Here’s how that strategic objective statement breaks down: 

A: Program investment: The statement calls out the investment in a strategic program, with crystal clear marching orders to the team, leaving no room for doubt, confusion, or hesitation. In this example, the strategic program is to “Create an elevated VIP consumer experience.” 

B: Focused opportunity: The breakthrough point where the brand will exert pressure to create a market impact. In this example, the focused opportunity is to “Reward our most loyal consumers.”  

C: Market impact: Achieves a specific desired market impact with a stakeholder you will attempt to move, whether it is consumers, sales channels, competitors, or influencers. In this example, the desired impact is to “Turn the consumer’s regular usage into a higher frequency ritual.” 

D: Performance result: Drive a specific performance result linked to the market impact, either making the brand more powerful or more profitable. In this example, “Tightening their bond with our brand.”

This unique strategic model will force you to pick answers to build a strategy statement with marching orders for those who follow your plan. As you build your brand plan, I recommend you use these four elements of smart strategic objective statements to ensure you structure the thinking. 

Examples of strategic objective statements using Special K

  • Advertise Special K’s brand idea of “empowering women” (a) focused on women who are frustrated by “lose and gain” diet fads (b), to move new consumers from awareness to trial (c) and gain share (d).
  • Build a low-calorie innovation plan across the entire grocery store (a) focused on our most loyal Special K lovers (b), to drive trial of new items (c) and successfully enter new markets (d).

Taking that into the Special K brand plan

If you took the strategic thinking model and began to outline a brand plan for Special K, these would be the core elements:

  • Vision: Be the delicious and healthy choice food brand across every tempting category of the grocery store.
  • Goals: Increase share in the cereal category. Successfully enter one new grocery category per year. Drive net promoter score and strengthen usage frequency and loyalty scores.
  • Key Issues: 1) How do we build an overall brand story to connect and develop a core base of brand lovers? 2) How do we take the “empowering women” brand idea into new food categories?
  • Strategies: 1) Advertise Special K’s brand idea of “empowering women,” focused on women who are frustrated by “lose and gain” diet fads, to move new consumers from awareness to trial and gain share. 2) Build a low-calorie innovation plan across the entire grocery store focused on our most loyal Special K lovers, to drive trial of new items and successfully enter new markets.
  • Tactics: New master brand advertising to project brand idea. Continue to improve shakes and potato chips product lines. Launch into breakfast snacks. Explore product innovation into pitas and pizzas.

Examples of competitive strategic objective statements using the Apple brand

  • Apple will launch a full communications assault (a) to challenge the PC/Microsoft Windows dominant position (b) by finding flaws in the PC to contrast with Mac computers’ simplicity (c) to steal significant market share by enticing frustrated consumers to buy a Mac (d).
  • Apple will launch a full assault against the entire music industry (a) with a disruptive innovator stance (b) to show how iTunes provides higher quality digital music on your iPod, much cheaper, faster and smarter than CDs (c) to gain an entry point into the music industry (d).

Building those strategy statements into the Apple Brand Plan

If you took the strategic thinking model and began to outline a brand plan for the Apple brand, these would be the core elements:Vision: Apple wants everyone in the world to be part of the future.

  • Goals: Continue aggressive sales growth, geographic expansion into China, launch new consumer-friendly technology each year.
  • Key issues: 1) How do we convey Mac’s superior user experience versus the traditional PC? 2) How do we enter the music industry and increase the availability of online music to support our iPod?
  • Strategies: 1) Apple will launch a full communications assault to challenge the PC/Microsoft Windows dominant position by finding flaws in the PC to contrast with Mac computers’ simplicity to steal significant market share by enticing frustrated PC consumers to buy a Mac. 2) Apple will launch a full assault against the entire music industry with a disruptive innovator stance to show how iTunes provides higher quality digital music on your iPod much cheaper, faster and smarter than CDs to gain an entry point into the music industry.
  • Tactics: TV advertising to highlight new features and challenge competitors. Launch innovation each year including phones, tablets, online music, watches, and personal computers. Launch specific products for China. Increase retail space around the world. Build out the e-commerce program.

Here’s how it can all come together into building out your brand plan:

To read how to write a brand plan:

To keep you going on your thinking on your own brand, here’s some examples of a few different options for strategy statements, with a focus on different types of strategy such as your brand’s core strength, consumer strategy, competitive strategy, and situational strategy.

click to enlarge

Now, you can get our ideal brand plan format

  • Get our ideal Brand Plan in a downloadable PowerPoint file that includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own brand plan.
  • We include slides for vision, purpose, analysis, key issues, strategies, brand positioning statement, and execution plans.
  • You will get the one-page brand plan and brand strategy roadmap. 

You can find Beloved Brands and B2B Brands on Amazon, Rakuten Kobo or Apple Books

To purchase Beloved Brands or B2B Brands, click on the icon where you buy your books 

Beyond the MBA is our virtual brand management training program designed for the real world

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A simple way to help you create your personal profile

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Your personal profile can be a lead tool for telling your brand story, whether on your LinkedIn profile, on your personal blog, or at any industry events. You can work on a long and shorter version of the bio.

Everyone should have a personal profile to tell their brand story

  • Start with your desired reputation by thinking of a personal vision statement for how you wish to be viewed five or ten years from now. 
  • Talk about the difference you make, whether it is in your job or business you are leading. 
  • Outline your background qualifications, including employment history, notable awards, or education degrees. 
  • Layer in other unique experiences, publications, event participation, or charity involvement. 
    To end, as we would with a brand, provide your stated promise declaration, which is your purpose behind your vision. Using your promise is a compelling way to end your profile.

Four Questions to define your personal brand

  1. How do you define yourself, by where in the marketplace you see yourself having the biggest impact? 
  2. What is the primary benefit you provide your target, whether they are potential prospects? 
  3. What is the secondary benefit you provide your target, whether they are potential prospects? 
  4. What is the expected result you deliver, that matches up to your target’s potential goals? 


Brainstorm worksheet

This model is a great way to summarize yourself, based on what you have done over the last few years. Make sure your definitions are more forward-looking with an aspiration for what you want to be, not stuck in what you have been. Once you get that done, you can then begin to piece it all together and see what your own 7-second pitch might start to look like. Keep tightening that pitch until it flows. 

Use your personal brand idea to establish consistency across every media choice you use

In today’s cluttered media world, use your personal brand idea to help organize all types of marketing communication efforts, including your brand story, sales material, networking, creating your own home page or blog, managing the search of yourself, portraying your personal brand through social media, and looking to establish yourself through any influence marketing.
When telling your brand story, you now have many media options available, including white papers, blog posts, LinkedIn updates, networking meetings, or delivering presentations at industry events. Tell the same brand story, with consistent layers of brand messaging. There is nothing wrong with repetition, primarily if you use various media options to make it more engaging.

click to enlarge

Now, you can get our ideal brand plan format

  • Get our ideal Brand Plan in a downloadable PowerPoint file that includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own brand plan.
  • We include slides for vision, purpose, analysis, key issues, strategies, brand positioning statement, and execution plans.
  • You will get the one-page brand plan and brand strategy roadmap. 

You can find Beloved Brands and B2B Brands on Amazon, Rakuten Kobo or Apple Books

To purchase Beloved Brands or B2B Brands, click on the icon where you buy your books 

Beyond the MBA is our virtual brand management training program designed for the real world

You will learn how to think strategically, figure out brand positioning, write brand plans, make decisions on marketing execution and analytical skills.

This is your opportunity to gain access to world-class brand management training

marketing training
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Click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our brand management training program

New Nike Offline shoes, designed to unplug and unwind while at home

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers
Nike work from home shoes

What do you think of the new Nike Offline shoe? 

Are they so ugly, they are kinda cute, or just plain ugly? Nike believes that with all those people working from home in 2020, and with the mental health benefit of taking time to unplug and disconnect, the Nike Offline ultra-comfort shoes are the answer. Maybe if you are working from home, the appearance of your footwear doesn’t matter. The new Nike Offline is designed for when “doing nothing” is the most important thing for you to recharge.

Click any of these photos to enlarge for close up

Do you think Nike Offline is a good idea or bad?

Fashion seems to be in the eye of the beholder. Are these shoes so ugly they are cute, or this ugly-croc-like shoe a complete misfit for Nike? 

We are living unprecedented times, and consumers are willing to recognize the effort brands make during 2020 to do whatever we can to adjust to our current times. As someone working 100% from home right now, I think I have worn shorts 100 days in a row. As Nike Offline shoes are positioned as the ultimate comfort shoe to help deal with any anxiety issues, consumers will appreciate the effort to help consumers deal with the anxiety and uncertainty of 2020. 

Once we return to normal, these shoes might get lost in the back of your closet. And when you clean your closet in 2025, it might give you a chuckle to remember back to the nutty summer of 2020. 

My verdict: Nike Offline shoes are a cute short-term tactical idea that does not fit the longer-term Nike brand strategy.

click to enlarge

Now, you can get our ideal brand plan format

  • Get our ideal Brand Plan in a downloadable PowerPoint file that includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own brand plan.
  • We include slides for vision, purpose, analysis, key issues, strategies, brand positioning statement, and execution plans.
  • You will get the one-page brand plan and brand strategy roadmap. 

You can find Beloved Brands and B2B Brands on Amazon, Rakuten Kobo or Apple Books

To purchase Beloved Brands or B2B Brands, click on the icon where you buy your books 

Beyond the MBA is our virtual brand management training program designed for the real world

You will learn how to think strategically, figure out brand positioning, write brand plans, make decisions on marketing execution and analytical skills.

This is your opportunity to gain access to world-class brand management training

marketing training
Play Video

Click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our brand management training program

The world’s first drive-thru art exhibit built for the coronavirus

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

This weekend, I was lucky to attend “Gogh by car,” which is the world’s first drive-thru art exhibit. The organizers intended to launch a regular art exhibit this spring, but then the coronavirus hit. Instead of giving up, they came up with something incredibly creative. They let ten cars into the drive-thru art exhibit every hour.

People are feeling stuck in their homes, yet still looking for something safe and clean. Tickets to this event sold out fast, and I jumped at the opportunity.

“We have been working around the clock to come up with innovative approaches that will make the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit safe for our audiences while keeping our artists, contractors, and staff employed at their pre-COVID salaries,” said co-producer Svetlana Dvoretsky.

“We recognize the devastating impact that coronavirus continues to have on the livelihood of artists and the cultural industry; and will continue to do our part to support artists and make art accessible during these extraordinary circumstances. We believe strongly in the resilience of culture in this great city.”

Have a look at one of my videos from the Gogh by Car drive-thru exhibit

Drive-thru art exhibit
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As a consumer, the creativity of this drive-thru art exhibit was shocking. We had an absolute blast. Making use of technology, yet with full respect for the art, they were able to bring Van Gogh’s work to life. The moving windmills, the brush strokes of the sky, and the vibrant colors against a 20-foot screen. I kept thinking of the first time I saw Cirque de Soleil, and this felt equally shockingly good. That’s the type of creativity I love. 

We drove our car into a warehouse in downtown Toronto, one of ten cars. They stopped by our car selling drinks and merchandise, and we purchased Van Gogh masks. It is 2020. The show lasted about 35 minutes, perfectly accompanied by fitting music. The cost was quite high at $95 Canadian ($72 US or 60 Euros) but certainly worth it. I sure hope someone comes up with a Monet version of this show. 

A second video from the Gogh by Car drive-thru art exhibit

Drive-thru art exhibit
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Click on any of these Gogh by Car photos to expand

As we open back up, consumers don't want you to completely change your brand; they just want a safer, cleaner version of the brand they have always loved

As consumers move out of the quarantine, they are looking for alternatives where they can escape crowds into their own bubble of isolation. Consumers also want to eliminate any personal touch with others. Yet, contradicting all the fear inside them, these lonely, isolated consumers crave ideas that will allow them to avoid feeling stuck so they can have fun again. 

The Gogh by Car drive-thru art exhibit nailed all three elements of the sweet spot. We were in our car feeling safe from the usual crowds of an art exhibit and we avoided any direct contact. Yet, we got out for a nice evening to avoid feeling stuck inside the house watching Netflix. I love the creativity the producers of the event used to bring their event to life in 2020. 

click to enlarge

Now, you can get our ideal brand plan format

  • Get our ideal Brand Plan in a downloadable PowerPoint file that includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own brand plan.
  • We include slides for vision, purpose, analysis, key issues, strategies, brand positioning statement, and execution plans.
  • You will get the one-page brand plan and brand strategy roadmap. 

You can find Beloved Brands and B2B Brands on Amazon, Rakuten Kobo or Apple Books

To purchase Beloved Brands or B2B Brands, click on the icon where you buy your books 

Beyond the MBA is our virtual brand management training program designed for the real world

You will learn how to think strategically, figure out brand positioning, write brand plans, make decisions on marketing execution and analytical skills.

This is your opportunity to gain access to world-class brand management training

marketing training
Play Video

Click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our brand management training program

Nike’s “You can’t stop us” is a masterclass in advertising

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

As we crave big, bold, beautiful work, Nike’s “you can’t stop us” campaign continues to inspire consumers, and hopefully, other advertisers.
The ad includes the richness in storytelling, the emotion of reaching beyond what we ever thought possible, the editing is perfect, and the recognition of our favorite athletes mixed in with real-world people accomplishing their greatness.
While everyone else is letting AI hound and annoy consumers into buying their products, Nike and Apple are shining the brightest with videos that give us chills and goosebumps. Neither is letting Coronavirus slow them down or producing generic thank-you messages. We need more great advertising work.

Nike's "you can't stop us"

best Nike ads
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I love the split-screen technique with 36 different pairings. Nike researched over 4,000 different video options to narrow it down to the perfect fittings. The ad delivers on Nike’s stated purpose is to unite the world through sport to create a healthy planet, active communities, and an equal playing field for all. Nike doesn’t want to let closed gyms or empty stadiums hold us back, and is showcasing the many ways that athletes continue to push forward.

The You can’t stop us campaign builds on Nike’s comeback story ad from a few months ago, that links famous comebacks in sports to what we are going through with the Coronavirus. 

Nike Ad
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Another Nike story you might like

Get our Brand Positioning template

  • Our Brand Positioning PowerPoint file includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own business review.
  • Include slides for target profile, brand positioning statement, brand idea, brand concept, brand values, brand story, brand credo, and a creative brief.
  • Everything is organized and ready for your input.

You can find Beloved Brands on Amazon, Rakuten Kobo or Apple Books

To purchase our Beloved Brands playbook, click on the icon where you buy your books 

Build your marketing skills with our post on How to write a Brand Concept

One of the most important skills marketers need to know is the fundamentals of writing a brand concept. Read our step-by-step process for how to create a brand concept that brings your brand to life. Learn how to lay out the brand concept with the brand idea, consumer insights, main message, support points and call-to-action. 

Non-marketers should stop telling marketers how to do their jobs

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Every marketer in the world has suffered the stop-by at the desk, having to listen to the dumbest ideas ever. The finance person, plant manager, even the CEO all stop by and say, “You know what would be a great idea…” And we have to listen and smile, and then say “great idea” no matter how dumb or lame the idea is. This is the curse of being a marketer because non-marketers always tell us how to do our jobs. 

No one ever tells a pilot, “I hear the Pittsburgh airspace is good today” or tells a surgeon about a new scalpel their taxidermist uncle uses. I don’t even think accountants get non-accountants stop by their desk and tell them how to do accounts payables. 

I suppose that everyone who has a TV and can critique Super Bowl ads or those with a Twitter account can believe they can now say they are a marketing expert. And every marketer has to endure the ideas of the non-marketers.

The commentary that I see coming from non-marketers is borderline cringe-worthy or hilarious.

When I see people on LinkedIn writing, “Marketers need to think more about the consumer,” I think you’ve never met a real marketer. The best marketers started doing that around 1915. I guess somehow this is now popular among non-marketers.

When I hear, “Marketers should analyze data,” again, I’m thinking what incompetent marketers have you been hanging around with. That’s been a significant part of the job since 1950. Sure, big data. But I have been working any data from share report data to Ipsos tracking data to weekly Walmart sales tracking data.

Do you even know what marketers do?

When I read, “The CEO should be in charge of the brand,” I think, “Well then the CEO should be in charge of the IT system.” Sure, in charge, but they should be smart enough to delegate to the experts who will make their brand stronger.

The best marketing-led organizations have bottom-up recommendations, empowering the brand manager to tell their directors what they want to do, who then support them in moving that up to the VP and President.

The worst organizations are when the CEO walks down the hall and asks, “Why are we not on Instagram? My 15-year-old daughter was showing me how cool it is this weekend”. This is likely why the average tenure of a CMO is under 24 months at this point. They are like sports coaches, who are hired to be fired, by the impatience of getting results. Or is it the impatience of not implementing the dumb ideas? 

When I hear, “Marketing needs to be more than just advertising” once again, you don’t understand the job….typically, advertising is 10-15% of the job. The best marketers determine the strategy, figure out the brand promise, brand communication, product innovation, purchase moment, and consumer experience…they touch all, decide all, but they let their experts run each of those touchpoints. 

Marketers don’t just “do marketing.” We run a business

I am glad so many want to be in Marketing. But you really should have to earn your way into it. Go interview for a job, get rejected a few times, push to really get in there, and then learn like a ton for a few years. 

I spent 20 years in marketing. I could not believe how much I learned in my first five years, then even more in the next five, then way more in the following five and absolute insane amount in those last five years. I’ve now been a consultant for ten years, and I swear I know twice as much as I learned in the first 20. It is a never-ending learning process. 

Marketing is harder than it looks. 

We are not experts in anything. While marketers don’t make the product, we don’t sell the product or create the ads, we do touch everything that goes into the marketplace, and we make every decision. All of our work is done through other people. Our greatness as a brand leader has to come from the experts we engage, so they will be inspired to reach for their own greatness and apply it to our brand. 

Brand management has been built on a hub-and-spoke system, with a team of experts surrounding the generalist brand leader. Marketing is not just an activity. The best marketers have to think, define, plan, execute, and analyze, using all parts of your brain, energy, and creativity.

This is everything a marketer must be able to do

brand management

The crucial skills marketers need

To achieve your full potential in your career, brand leaders must know how  to think strategically, define the brand positioning, build a brand plan that everyone can follow, inspire creative marketing execution that drives brand growth, and analyze the performance of the business.  

  1. Concerning strategic thinking, you need to use challenging and interruptive questions, take a holistic view of the brand, lead strategic debates on the issues, and make smart strategic decisions.
  2. To define your brand, you must know how to find the consumer target, understand the potential functional and emotional benefits, create an ownable and motivating brand positioning statement, then build out a brand idea that guides every consumer touchpoint on the brand. 
  3. To write a brand plan, you need are to lead all elements of the plan, turn your strategic thinking into strategic objective statements, present to senior management, and develop smart execution plans. 
  4. For marketing execution, you must be able to write a brief, lead the project management aspect of any marketing execution, inspire the experts, and make smart decisions. 
  5. When it comes to analytics, you need to know the sources of data, be able to dig into the analysis, lead a deep-dive business review, and write an analytical performance report.
 
Beloved Brands marketing model

click to enlarge

Now, you can get our ideal brand plan format

  • Get our ideal Brand Plan in a downloadable PowerPoint file that includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own brand plan.
  • We include slides for vision, purpose, analysis, key issues, strategies, brand positioning statement, and execution plans.
  • You will get the one-page brand plan and brand strategy roadmap. 

You can find Beloved Brands and B2B Brands on Amazon, Rakuten Kobo or Apple Books

To purchase Beloved Brands or B2B Brands, click on the icon where you buy your books 

Beyond the MBA is our virtual brand management training program designed for the real world

You will learn how to think strategically, figure out brand positioning, write brand plans, make decisions on marketing execution and analytical skills.

This is your opportunity to gain access to world-class brand management training

marketing training
Play Video

Click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our brand management training program