Should brands speak out in the year of the brand boycott?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained


That is my shortest article of all time.

I have intensely strong political opinions in my head, but I will not share them. They are likely as strong or even stronger than yours. But I will not post them on Facebook. I will never go against them at any point in my life. Ever. Yet, I keep mine in my head. And I completely respect yours, even if they are in direct opposition to mine. I refuse to take a political stand in public. They make voting booths private for a reason.

When it comes to politics, people cannot see straight. I have learned 1000 times in my life that you will never change their minds. I have learned about 15 times this year on Facebook. It is crazy. They cannot even hear you. That is ok. That is the reality of the market a brand must play within.

With such a divided electorate, it is too dangerous for brands to take sides.

As a person, I love that people have political convictions and applaud them for speaking out. I loved that millions marched. It was truly inspirational. Now, if you enjoy speaking out, go for it. Your choice. I know you think I am wrong. I have tried to hint to friends that they should tone down their inflammatory Facebook posts, but to no avail. They seem to need that therapeutic. It is perfectly OK for an individual, buried somewhere on your personal Twitter or Facebook feed with your 334 followers. Have fun.

Even if you are the CEO, you are still just an employee who works for the shareholders.

I love Howard Schultz. He is one of the most brilliant marketing minds of our today’s world. Maybe he will run for office one day. Maybe he will win. But as a brand, Starbucks should have been more careful this week. He should have produced a vague statement of defiance like P&G, Nike or Facebook, which look like a team of 30 lawyers read over every word. After reading it a few times, I am not even sure what the P&G’s statement says. Schultz may have over-estimated the Starbucks brand’s support, as they did behind the #racetogether campaign. As their loyal consumers rejected #racetogether, they did quickly back away. Now as a person, I don’t think people should boycott Starbucks for offering to hire refugees. But they did. Schultz is just employee #1 at Starbucks, reporting to the shareholders. Three days after speaking out, Starbucks just lost $5 Billion in market valuation. Wow. That’s a 7-8% loss in a robust stock market. I sure hope the waters calm down and they bounce back up. Then you could argue it was worth it. But what if the stock bounces down to a 20% loss?  What is the price it is worth it? 30%?  Still worth it? What’s the price to pay when you are gambling with the hard earned savings of those stockholders counting on that money for their retirement. Shareholders are not the 1%, but the 50%. Half of America participates in the stock market. They are counting on that money to be there.

Brands only exist to make more money than the product alone could ever do.

I believe brand’s only exist for companies to make more money than if they sold the product alone. Sure, you can have a brand purpose or brand soul that wants to make a difference. If having a conviction makes you more profits, I say, “Have more conviction”. However, if you just a coffee shop with nice seats, be more careful. Do not be so loud about it. Because more profits will allow you to quietly make more of a difference. Your role as a hired brand slinger is to deliver profits back to the shareholders. You can certainly hire refugees over the next 5 years. But watch out for inflaming the die-hard 25% of people who voted for Trump. Same goes for brands on the right hand side now facing boycotts. 

Also, if you have such a brand purpose, you should understand profits allow you to have even more of a purpose and for even longer. Benneton was an outspoken in shocking ways in the 1980’s. Very purpose driven, loud and in your face stance. They are no longer around. They no longer have a voice.


2017 is becoming the year of the boycott.

If you love the anti-Trump sentiment, you likely hated what Uber did with airports on the weekend, driving past the Taxi driver protest and on top of it, charging surge prices . If you are on the left, you likely also hated the Chick Fil A making statement against marriage equality about 3-4 years ago. Maybe you have not eaten there since. I believe that brand mistake will stick with them forever. You just sell chicken, you are not my moral compass. Arguably, this could stick with Starbucks forever. These brands are now forcing consumers to make personal brand choices based on politics. The left is boycotting brands on the right and the right is boycotting brands on the right. Anyone who meets Trump gets trashed with a new hash-tag. Anyone manufacturer, big or small, who gets called out by a Trump tweet, truly lives in fear. I saw a brand announce they were building a manufacturing site in the US, they were then praised by Trump and then boycotted by the left. Wait a second, you are boycotting because they are creating US jobs?  Wow.

The best numbers out there, is about 27% voted one side and 25% voted the other way. Still, 48% refused to vote. That means 27% and 25% of your employees vote one way or the other. If you motivated 27%, you de-motivated the 25%. And you likely annoyed the 48%. Are you now going to ask political questions in the job interviews?  That would be scary.

Trump’s approval rating is 45%. You can either read that as the lowest approval rating for the first week of a President, or you can read that as only 1% less than voted for him 8 weeks ago. This is a very crazed and divided marketplace. Someone today told me they really respect Starbucks for this stance. However, when I pressed them if it would make them drink more coffee, they said they already boycott Starbucks for something they did 2 years ago. So this is the crazy type of consumer a brand must deal with in 2017.

Be careful. Be quiet. Pick your spots.

I am sure there will be people who tell me they love what one of these brands are doing, but hate what the other brand is doing. You are only proving my point. You will not hear my political views. It does not mean they are not as strong as yours.  It just means I am careful.

If you like what Starbucks did, you better start drinking more coffee. Fast.

Knowing where you are today helps you know your next strategic move

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

One tool we use to help guide strategic choices is our hypothetical “Brand Love Curve” which is used to assess how tightly connected your brand is with your consumers. We believe that brands move along the curve through five phases, moving from Unknown to Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved brand. The reason brands need to move along the Brand Love Curve is to leverage their increased connectivity with consumers, to become more powerful against all stakeholders in the market. With that added power, brands gain more profit through higher prices, efficient costs, share gains and a bigger market size.

Strategic Thinking 2016.098

Where you sit on the Brand Love Curve should guide your next major strategic move. At the Unknown stage, the strategy is about getting noticed in the market. For a brand at the Indifferent stage, where consumers have no opinion of your brand, brands should focus on establishing your brand in the consumers mind. Build an opinion about your brand, by taking a stand. At the Like It stage, where consumers see the brand as a rational choice, there needs to be strategic work to separate your brand from the pack and generate a following with a core group of consumers. At the Love It stage, focus on tugging at the heart-strings of consumers to drive a deeper connection with those consumers who love the brand. At the Beloved stage, continue the magical feeling of the brand and get loyalists to scream to their network on the brand’s behalf.

The unknown brand
At the unknown brand stage, the brand might be a completely new innovation, re-launch, hidden gem, small niche looking to expand, or entering into a new region or channel. Many new brands struggle to break through to reach consumers or build distribution with doubting retailers. Leadership team conflicts result in confusion around the value proposition, inconsistent messaging to consumers and everyone in the organization moving in different directions. Like any new launch, there is a risk of being seen as a product, not yet a brand idea. Too many times, companies at this stage fixate more on selling than marketing. There is a desperation for sales, no matter who buys or why they buy. This stage is where the heavy investment is needed to establish both brand awareness and distribution. Being seen as a commodity product, with no real separation from competitors, makes it hard to command a price premium. It is hard to generate efficiencies in selling and marketing.

The 3-point game plan for unknown brands: 1) Create a Big Idea to build everything around, both internally and externally. 2) Stay focused to maximize your limited resources: focused target, tight positioning, tight strategies, and limited activities—always focused on driving a return. 3) Find ways to passionately express your brand purpose as a rallying point, both internally and externally.

The four brand strategies that unknown brands should focus on are:

  • Brand Set up: Establish distribution, brand experience, purchase moment.
  • Launch: Enter market, building awareness with consumers, sales levels with channels.
  • Build core message: Establish niche benefit and a big idea that will establish a reputation.
  • Find early lovers: Build a small base of early adopters, who become fans to build upon.

The Indifferent brand
For Indifferent brands, these brands are likely too product-focused, not yet able to find way to separate the brand from competitors. The brands act like commodities. They suffer from very skinny brand funnels, with low awareness at the top of the funnel, with soft purchase, repeat and loyalty scores. These brands suffer from poor tracking scores on any marketing support programs. Without a big idea or unique positioning, it is difficult to break through with advertising or innovation. To keep selling, these brands becomes reliant on price promotions to drive volume, resulting in a profit margin squeeze. Lower volumes prevent these brands from reaching the needed economies of scale to drive down variable cost of goods. These brands are unable to gain new users or drive frequency. They have no power with retailers, unable to get their fair share of shelf space, display or price promotions. These brands are at risk of being delisted, if they fall below volume thresholds. Private label brands threaten their sales levels. These brands have lower payback on Marketing activities, making the marketing investment (advertising, innovation, in-store) difficult to justify.

The 3-point game plan for Indifferent brands: 1) Create a Big Idea to establish the brand’s uniqueness and build a reputation to stand behind. 2) Focus the brand’s limited resources on establishing a point of difference in the consumer’s mind. 3) More passion and risk into your work.

The four brand strategies that unknown brands should focus on are:

  • Mind Shift: Drive a new brand position or re-enforce current positioning
  • Mind Share: Draw more attention than competitors by being better or different.
  • New News: Launch something new or re-launch to appear new.
  • Turnaround: Focus energy on gaps, leaks in the brand’s execution.

Like It brands
Brands at the Like It stage doing a pretty good job in establishing itself on a rational level. However, without an emotional connection, these brands suffer from a lower than desired conversion to purchase. These brand looks healthy in terms of driving awareness and tracking scores, however the brand keeps losing to competitors as the consumer moves to the purchase stage. These brands usually require a higher trade spend to close that sale. This cuts into profit margins. An important tracking score to watch is “the brand seem different” helping to separate the brand from the pack. Without any emotional connection these brand get to a certain level and then face stagnant market shares. They make gains during Marketing support periods but face declines during the non-support periods. These brands appear content to hold onto their share and grow at the same rate as the category. In categories with high private label shares, if you focus too much on product ingredients and rational features, the consumer will start to figure out they can get the same thing with the private label at a significantly lower price.

Here is a 3-point game plan for Like It brands: 1) Leverage the brand’s big idea to connect emotionally. 2) Focus your resources on building a bigger following by converting awareness to purchases. 3) Build a culture of passion, where everyone loves the work they produce.

The four brand strategies that Like It stage brands should focus on are:

  • Drive Penetration: Bring in new consumers.
  • Drive Usage: Get consumers to use more/differently by building the brand into a routine.
  • Consolidation: Induce consumers to use the brand for more usage occasions.
  • Cross Sell: Persuade current consumer base to try other products within the brand.

Love It brands
Brands at the Love It stage start to see a higher emotional connection and a resulting power in the marketplace. Indicators include a strong conversion from purchase to loyalty. These brands are able to drive strong repeat and loyalty scores, as the brand becomes a routine or ritual. The brand is now seen as different and motivating. These brands see a strong overall brand funnel with an expanding user base and a strengthening usage frequency as the brand becomes part of the consumer’s routine. Highly responsive Marketing programs and tracking results means the brand can shift to more efficient spending with lower GRPs. The brand sees high adoption of new innovation, which allows the brand to continue to stretch the consumer towards the ideal brand positioning. High net promoter scores leads to high word of mouth recommendations, social media recommendations or positive on-line brand reviews (e.g.Yelp or Trip Advisor). These brands should be able to leverage their power with retailers and influencers. Even in a competitive market, a brand at the Love It stage should be able to gain share and widening their leadership stance.

The 3-point game plan for Love It brands: 1) Tug at the heart of those consumers who love the brand, helping build a community of Brand fans. 2) Shift to creating a brand experience that turns purchases into routines. 3) Turn the love for your work into a bit of magic for the consumer.

The four brand strategies that Love It stage brands should focus on are:

  • Experience: Shift from a product focus towards creating brand experiences.
  • Maintain: Re-enforce the brand strengths with your core base of brand fans.
  • Deeper love: Match the passion of your consumers, treating them extra special.
  • New Reasons to Love: Re-enforce messages to your most loyal users.

Beloved Brands
Brands at the beloved stage are the iconic leaders in their category. These brands have an extremely healthy and robust brand funnel with likely a near perfect brand awareness (over 95%), high conversion to purchase, with strong repeat and loyalty scores. These brands have good penetration and purchase frequency scores. Tracking results show immediate reaction to new marketing programs—high brand link on advertising and high trial rates on innovation. They usually have a dominant share position, at least in a specific segment. They have the power to take a dominant stance in the marketplace, squeezing out smaller brands and reducing the influence of key competitors. These brands have strong net promoter scores and have cultivated a community of outspoken brand fans. Even competitive-users respect these brands, expressing a potential desire to switch in the future. These brands use their power with retailers, who provide preferential shelf space and use the beloved brand to drive traffic to their stores. Suppliers are willing to cut their costs in order to sign up the beloved brand as a customer. Even governments might offer special benefits. The beloved brand becomes an employer of choice for new talent who want to be part of the brand. The brand even has a power over the earned and influential media gaining efficient and impactful media and positive reviews. The brand becomes an asset, with high profitability. It becomes a good stock to invest in.

The 3-point game plan for beloved brands: 1) Focus on maintaining the magic and love the brand has created with the core brand fans. 2) Challenge and perfect the experience. 3) Broaden the offering and selectively broaden the audience.

The four brand strategies that Love It stage brands should focus on are:

  • Magic: Continue to surprise and delight loyalists.
  • Leverage Power: Drive financial value from the brand’s sources of power.
  • Attack yourself: Continue to assess and improve every aspect of the brand.
  • Use loyalists: Leverage brand fans to influence their network.

Knowing where you are sets up your strategic choices

While you will come up with your own uniquely written strategies, where you stand on the Brand Love Curve can help guide you as to the strategic choices you can make.

Strategic Thinking 2016.099

One strategic flaw I see in many brand plans is trying to drive penetration and usage frequency at the same time. This is a classic case of trying to get away with doing two things, instead of forcing yourself to pick just one. Consider how different these two options really are and you will see the drain on your resources from trying to do both. A penetration strategy gets someone with very little experience with your brand to likely consider dropping their current brand to try you once and see if they will like your brand. A usage frequency strategy tries to get someone who knows your brand already, to change their behavior in relationship to your brand, either changing their current life routine or substituting your brand into a higher share of occasions. By doing both, you will be targeting two types of consumers at the same time, you will have two main brand messages and you will divide your resources against two groups of activities that have very little synergy. If you decide that you are going to pick both to do at the same time, you have to stop telling people you are a strategic thinker. It is crazy to try to do both. Yes, in terms of digital media, you can find ways to target both. However, you are still dividing your budget out. Also, any strategy usually goes far beyond media. You should be thinking holistically about the brand story, product innovation, purchase moment and brand experience.

Strategic Thinking 2016.105


Knowing where you are today helps you know your next strategic move

To read more about brand strategy, here’s our workshop presentation that we run:

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.

Beloved Brands Training program

At Beloved Brands, we promise to make your team of BRAND LEADERS smarter, so they produce smarter work that drives stronger brand results.

  • How to think strategically: Strategic thinkers see “what if” questions before seeing solutions, mapping out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out.
  • Write smarter Brand Plans: A good Brand Plan provides a road map for everyone in the organization to follow: sales, R&D, agencies, senior leaders, even the Brand Leader who writes the plan.
  • Create winning Brand Positioning Statements: The brand positioning statement sets up the brand’s promise to the consumer, impacting both external communication (advertising, PR or in-store) as well as internally with employees who deliver that promise.
  • Write smarter Creative Briefs: The brief helps focus the strategy so that all agencies can take key elements of the brand plan positioning to and express the brand promise through communication.
  • Be smarter at Brand Analytics: Before you dive into strategy, you have to dive into the brand’s performance metrics and look at every part of the business—category, consumers, competitors, channels and brand.
  • Get better Marketing Execution: Brand Leaders rely on agencies to execute. They need to know how to judge the work effectively to ensure they are making the best decisions on how to tell the story of the brand and express the brand’s promise.
  • How to build Media Plans: Workshop for brand leaders to help them make strategic decisions on media. We look at media as an investment, media as a strategy and the various media options—both traditional and on-line.
  • Winning the Purchase Moment: Brand Leaders need to know how to move consumers on the path to purchase, by gaining entry into their consumers mind, help them test and decide and then experience so they buy again and become a brand fan.

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 or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

GR bio Jun 2016.001

Microsoft just bought LinkedIn. This is a huge move into the world of social media.

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

Microsoft has announced a $26 Billion acquisition of Linked In. This is Microsoft’s first entry into the social media world. (or second if you count MSN). My first reaction was “WOW. Just wow.”  I was expecting something, but didn’t see it coming now, and with Microsoft. But good for them. And this is the first move, not the last move.

linked in.002I normally hate mergers and acquisitions, but this one is pretty interesting. Microsoft is making an obvious play at the business world. While the Nokia experiment failed, I wouldn’t be surprised if they keep pushing into the portable device space. The surface has done fairly well (I’m 100% Apple guy, but I see them around). And now  Microsoft will now be able to package Surface + Office + LinkedIn + Slideshare + Skype.

In an email to staff, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella touted the pairing as a way to improve both companies by integrating LinkedIn’s content and network with Microsoft’s cloud computing and productivity tools. “This combination will make it possible for new experiences such as a LinkedIn newsfeed that serves up articles based on the project you are working on and Office suggesting an expert to connect with via LinkedIn to help with a task you’re trying to complete. As these experiences get more intelligent and delightful, the LinkedIn and Office 365 engagement will grow,”Nadella wrote.

Honestly, I have no idea where the current world of social media settles in, and who owns what. But the world of convergence will happen over the next 5-10 years. From a social media point of view, most of these sites are just about expresses ourselves, just in slightly different ways. If I look at my news feeds on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram, they are starting to look similar, some days almost too similar. Not all of them will survive or need to survive. There are already apps that allow one to post on each site. Why not take it a step further and just have one site, with 3 or 4 window. Facebook could easily have a personal window, business window, entertainment window or politics window. I don’t see a need for Twitter, do you?

I could easily see Apple and Facebook getting together.

linked in.001

By the way, shares of LinkedIn surged 48% after the announcement, while Microsoft’s stock was down 4%. Trading in Microsoft had been halted briefly for news pending before the announcement of the all-cash deal. So maybe the market’s first reaction isn’t so strong. I think this is a great fit for Microsoft and the market will settle in.

Your move next Apple.


At Beloved Brands, we lead workshops to help teams build their Strategic Thinking, helping Brand Leaders to think differently in terms of competitive strategy, consumer strategy, getting behind your core strengths and being aware of the situational strategy. Click on the Powerpoint file below to view:

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 or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.

GR bio Jun 2016.001



Who is your consumer’s enemies that you will fight on their behalf?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

While regular products solve regular problems, the most beloved brands beat down the enemies that torment consumers every day. Positioning-2016.027What are your consumer’s frustration point that they feel no one is even noticing or addressing? For instance, the Disney brand fights off the consumer enemy of “growing up”, while Volvo fights off the consumer enemy of “other drivers” or Starbucks fights off the consumer enemy of a “hectic life”. Shifting from solving a rational consumer problem to beating down a consumer enemy is the starting point to reaching into the emotional state of your consumer.

Starbucks fights off the enemy of the hectic life

Put yourself in the shoes of your Starbucks consumer, who is a 38-year-old mom with two kids. She wakes up at 6:15 am, not only to get ready for work, but to get everyone in the house ready for their day. She drops off one kid at daycare, the other at public school and then rushes into the office for 8:30 am. She drives a van, not because she wants to but because it is a great transportation choice for carrying all the equipment needed for after-school activities, including soccer, dance, tutoring and ice hockey. It never stops. No one is really old enough to thank her, the only appreciations are random moments of celebration or a hug at the end of a long day. Just after getting both to bed, she slinks into her bed exhausted. What is her enemy? a03e0da8-fac7-11e3-acc6-12313b090d61-medium-1Her enemy is the hectic life that she leads. If only she had a 15-minute moment to escape from it all. She doesn’t want to run from it, because she does love her life. She just needs a nice little break. A place where there is no play land, but rather nice leather seats. There are no loud screams, just nice acoustic music. There are no happy meals, just nice pastries have a European touch. Not only does she feel appreciated, but the cool 21-year-old college student not only knows her name but knows her favorite drink. Starbucks does an amazing job in understanding and fighting off the consumer’s enemy, giving her a nice 15-minute moment of escape in the middle of her day.

Yes, the Starbucks product is coffee, but the Starbucks brand is about moments. Starbucks provides a personal moment of escape from a hectic life, between work and home. They fight off the consumer enemy of the hectic life.

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. computer-frustrationExamples of computer frustration includes spending 38 minutes to figure out how 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 3 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 and 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, but the Apple brand makes technology so simple that everyone can be part of the future. They fight off the consumer enemy of frustration with technology.

If you want to show that you better understand your consumers, how would you project the enemy that you are fighting on their behalf.


Understanding the consumer is the first step in writing a winning brand positioning statement. To read more on brand positioning, here’s our workshop we run for brand teams:

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 or call us at 416-885-3911You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

GR bio Jun 2016.001

A casual and cool Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sells a new type of Canada

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

CgpID6RUgAE5OKIAs a Canadian, I am used to Canada being very low-key on the world stage. However, all that seems to be changing with the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. For me, it started the morning after we elected Trudeau back in the fall of 2015, when one of my friends texted me “I hear you have a hot new Prime Minister”.

Trudeau is young (44), good-looking with modern liberal views, outspoken on his support for women, native Canadians and newly minted Syrian refugees. Imagine a politician in these times not only pushing for Syrian refugees, but he showed up at the airport to welcome them to Canada. Trudeau’s trip to Washington made the news, with a similar impact as how Prince William or Harry might generate. He had a tremendous impact on President Obama who referred to him as the most popular Canadian ever. Trudeau is making most of the top 100 most influential lists.

Here’s the type of Prime Minister we have here in Canada, as he welcomes Syrian refugees at the airport.




And now Trudeau is literally selling Canada.

Tourism Canada has caught on to Trudeau being one of their bigger assets to re-positioning Canada as modern, hip, cosmopolitan and accepting, hoping to attract tourists from around the world. Especially those Americans feeling disenfranchised by the current political climate in the US Presidential race. Recently, the Canadian visa website has been flooded with download requests.CO-Truedeau04.JPG

Research shows that tourism is up 8.5% for Canada, and about 1 in 10 Americans have considered a vacation to Canada, although they have expressed concerns about potential cold weather and the perceived lack of urban sophistication. Both of these are misguided stereotypes. Just so everyone knows, Vancouver weather is identical to Seattle (both rarely ever get snow) and Toronto is just like Chicago or Boston (a mix of snow in winter and heat in the summer). As for urban sophistication, Canada has a very urban population (80% of Canadians live in urban areas), and Toronto is the 4th largest metropolitan area in North America. Those who visit talk about how clean Canada is, how safe they feel and how friendly the people are. Many of the Canadian cities are consistently rated as some of the best cities in the world. We have some of the greatest natural beauties in the world, with the Rockies of the West or Newfoundland of the East.

Below is a new Canadian tourism video, prominently featuring Trudeau, that was just released by Destination Canada. He nails some all the key talking points, showing our culinary sophistication, talking about the diversity of Canadians and just showing a very casual coolness that feels different than a politician would normally project themselves. He even talks about a consumer insight that I’ve always been fond of: “Canada has such a beautiful diversity, that it is one the only places where you can’t tell who is local and who is a tourist”. Have a look, and see if this guy is more casual and at ease with people than Obama or Bill Clinton or Tony Blair.



Now whether this type of low-key casual spot is enough to drive tourism sales in Canada, we likely can expect Trudeau’s next 5 years as Prime Minister will continue to drive intrigue and knowledge of the new emerging Canada. Below is a YouTube clip of Trudeau (a former teacher) explaining Quantum computing–and my guess is that most views are not to learn more about computers.




Would you consider traveling to Canada?


To read more about brand positioning, here’s a workshop we run:


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 or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

Positioning 2016.112


The marketing world has changed, and brand leaders need to change with it

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

When we say Marketing has changed, the first answer people gravitate to is the change in media options over the last 15 years, with the opening up of digital, social and search. That change is at the surface level, but it is not really enough of a reason to warrant the change we are seeing. 

In the previous century, it was product driven brands like Tide, Kodak, Xerox, Microsoft and Ivory soap that always stressed product superiority with repetitive mass media strategies behind 30 second TV ads that used side-by-side demos and robotic rules like saying the brand name in the first 7 seconds and the see-say product shots over the last 5 seconds. But now we see the most modern brands like Starbucks, Whole Foods, Facebook, Tesla, Uber and Netflix driving success with the modern consumer in a completely modern fashion. While each of these brands has a clearly defined brand big idea, there is no real memorable advertising, no tag line we can recite and yet consumers are tightly connected and outspoken fans of each brand. Do you even remember the first time you heard of these brands? How? All I know, is that I’m sure you remember your last experience. 

These modern brands combine big ideas backed by amazing experiences to create a feeling. They find new ways to tell their brand story that spreads like wildfire and they focus more on being different than being better. The organizational culture of these modern brands has become the foundation of their story, their brand purpose and expressed values have become the substitute for brand claims and product demos. The brand story isn’t done through a traditional media blocking chart. Instead of yelling your message over and over to every consumer in the marketplace hoping some buy you, the most modern brands whisper to their most loyal fans, hoping those brand fans whisper with an underlying influence to all their friends and families. 

Old school brands fought for a space in the consumers mind

The best brands of the last century were based on product inventions that solved small problems consumers didn’t even realize they had until the product came along. Old school Marketing was dominated by TV ads, logos, product superiority claims, coupons and a battle for shelf space at retail stores. Products were developed by scientists in a lab, pushed to the market, shouting “we are the best” to anyone who would listen. It was about awareness, brand recall, persuasion and trial, driving volume up to push costs down and drive competitors out of the market. The old school brands fought for a space in the consumers mind, with a motivation to win over a broad target. These brands are liked by everyone, but not really loved, and many are struggling in the new economy.

Modern brands fight for a place the consumers heart

In the new economy of the 21st century, Brand Love is the currency, with marketing shifting to building big ideas, leveraging purpose-driven story telling, creating experiences, managing ubiquitous purchase moments and steering the brand’s reputation. The best brands of the new economy are based on a big idea that consumers connect with. The idea has to reflect the brand’s soul, with a clear purpose and set of values to create an organizational culture of people who live the brand and who will deliver an amazing brand experience that exceeds any expectations. These brands are seen as consumer brands because they were developed through observation of consumers, with innovation that beats down an identified consumer enemy that torments them every day. The growth comes from finding those consumers already motivated by what the brand does. Consumers are made to feel part of brand, they desire it, crave it and are outspoken fans of it. Instead of shouting at consumers, the modern brands confidently whisper to their most loyal fans, who then whisper with trusted influence to bring their friends to the brand. These Brands now fight for a space in the consumers heart.

Brand Leaders need to change.

This is our Beloved Brands credo, and the inside jacket of our new book to be released in early 2016.

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Here’s a presentation from our workshop on how to create a beloved brand

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

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

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What you should do when your brand is stuck at the Like It stage

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

Figure out how tightly connected your brand is with your consumer

At Beloved Brands, we have created a hypothetical curve called the Brand Love Curve. The more tightly connected consumers are to the brand, the farther along the curve the brand sits, with brands sitting anywhere from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally to the Beloved stage, where demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans.



While marketers dream of becoming a Nike, Coke, Disney or Apple, the reality is that most brands are closer to the “Like It” stage. That means you are doing a pretty good job, you’ve been able to carve out a bit of a niche and be a consistently chosen brand against proliferation of brands in your category. And you likely have good steady market shares, moderate profits and most brand indicators are reasonably healthy. It’s just that no one loves you. You’re likely not really doing enough to create a tight bond with consumers. It also means you might not be maximizing the full potential of your brand, you may be leaving your brand vulnerable to future attacks and you are leaving money on the table. 


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How do consumers see brands at the “Like It” stage

Consumers see your brand as a functional and rational choice. Your brand does a good job in meeting a basic need they have. They tried it and it makes sense so they buy it, use it and enjoy it. They likely prefer it versus another brand. The might not give it much more though. Consumers lack an emotional connection or have any real feeling for the brand. They see it as ordinary, which is just a little bit better than indifferent. Overall, consumers see you brand in the “it will do” space. 

Why is your brand at the Like It stage?
There are seven reasons why you are at the Like It stage of the brand love curve:

  • Protective Brand Leaders means caution: While many of these brands at the Like It are very successful brands, they get stuck because of overly conservative and fearful Brand Managers, who pick middle of the road strategies and execute “ok” ideas. On top of this, Brand Managers who convince themselves that “we stay conservative because it’s a low interest category” should be removed. Low interest category means you need even more to captivate the consumer. Nearly every category has some consumers that have the potential to love the brand–it’s just a matter of finding them and a willingness to drive more emotion into your marketing.
  • We are rational thinking Marketers: Those marketers that believe consumers are strictly rational when it comes to the brand are inhibiting their brands. The brand managers get all jazzed on claims, comparatives, product demonstration and doctor recommended that they forget about the emotional side of the purchase decision. Claims need to be twisted into benefits—both rational and emotional benefits. Consumers don’t care about you do until you care about what they need. Great marketers find that balance of the science and art of the brand. Ordinary marketers get stuck with the rational only. Don’t get stuck with just features and claims–match them up to consumer needs and create rational benefits and then dial them up to emotional benefits. We recommend using a customer value proposition brand ladder below to help turn your features into benefits.


  • New Brand with Momentum: The second stage of a new brand innovation is ready to expand from the early adopters to the masses. The new brand begins to differentiate itself in a logical way to separate themselves from the proliferation of copycat competitors. Consumers start to go separate ways as well. Retailers might even back one brand over another. Throughout the battle, the brand carves out a base of consumers.
  • There’s a Major Leak: If you look at the brand buying system, you’ll start to see a major leak at some point where you keep losing customers. Most brands have some natural flaw—whether it’s the concept, the product, taste profile ease of use or customer service. Without analyzing and addressing the leak, the brand gets stuck. People like it, but refuse to love it.
  • Brand changes their mind every year: Brands really exist because of the consistency of the promise. When the promise and the delivery of the promise changes every year it’s hard to really connect with what the brand is all about. A brand like Wendy’s has changed their advertising message every year over the past 10 years. Looking at the various ads for Wendy’s, do you see a big idea? The only consumers remaining are those who like their burgers, not the brand.


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  • Your brand has positional power–so you figure who needs Love: There are brands that have captured a strong positional power, whether it`s a unique technology or distribution channel or even value pricing advantage. Brands like Microsoft or Walmart or even many of the pharmaceuticals products don`t see value in the idea of being loved. The problem is when you lose the positional power, you lose your customer base completely. Case in point is the Microsoft brand which has struggled to go beyond their Windows monopoly. 
  • Brands who capture Love, but no Life Ritual: There are brands that quickly capture the imagination but somehow fail to capture a routine embedded in the consumers’ life, usually due to some flaw. Whether it’s Krispy Kreme, Pringles or even Cold Stone, there’s something inherent in the brand’s format or weakness that holds it back and it stays stuck at Loved but just not often enough. So, you forget you love them.

Indicators that your brand is at the Like It stage

From a business point of view, you likely see the brand has a lower conversion from awareness to sales, there is a high % bought on deal, low loyalty and you’re likely faced battling a  strong private label share. 

  • Low Conversion to Sales. While the brand looks healthy in terms of awareness and equity scores, the brand is successful in becoming part of the consumer’s consideration stage, but it keeps losing out to the competition as the consumer goes to the purchase stage. It usually requires a higher trade spend to close that sale which cuts price and margins.
  • Brand Doesn’t Feel Different: A great advertising tracking score to watch is “made the brand seem different” which helps to separate itself from the pack, many times speaking to the emotional part of the messaging.Slide04
  • Stagnant Shares: Your brand team is happy when they hold on to their share, content to grow with the category.
  • High Private Label Sales: If you only focus on the ingredients and the rational features of the product, the consumer will start to figure out they get the same thing with the private label and the share starts to creep up to 20% and higher.

How to get to the Love It stage

  • Separate your brand from the pack: stake out certain spaces in the market creating a brand story that separates your brand from the clutter. The best brands have 3 choices:  better, different or cheaper. When you struggle to be better, you need to find a way to be different so that your brand matches the winning zone below–where your brand’s clear point of difference matches up to what the consumer wants. Begin to sell the solution, not just the product.
  • Build a bigger following: Invest in building a brand story that helps to drive for increased popularity and get new consumers to use the brand.

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  • Leverage those that already love the brand: Focus on the most loyal consumers and drive a deeper connection by driving the routine which should increase usage frequency. On top of that, begin cross selling to capture a broader type of usage.



  • Love the Work: It is time to dial-up the passion that goes into the marketing execution. Beloved Brands have a certain magic to them. But “Like It’ brands tend to settle for ok, rather than push for great. With better work, you’ll be able to better captivate and delight the consumers. If you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand.
  • Fix the Leak: Brands that are stuck have something embedded in the brand or the experience that is holding back the brand. It frustrates consumers and restricts them from fully committing to making the brand a favourite. Be proactive and get the company focused on fixing this leak.
  • Build everything a Big Idea: Consumers want consistency from the brand—constant changes to the advertising, packaging or delivery can be frustrating. Leverage a Brand Story and a Big Idea that balances rational and emotional benefits helps to establish a consistency for the brand and help build a much tighter relationship. Once you establish your big idea, line up everything under that big idea including your brand positioning, communication, innovation, in-store and the overall experience you create.


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Brands at the Like It stage tend to get complacent. You need to drive the Love into the work, and find the balance between rational and emotional benefits.


Does being loved matter?

The big idea behind RETURN ON LOVE (R.O.L.) is that the work you do on the brand is first and foremost focused on creating a strong bond between your consumer and your brand. Once you have that bond, you can use it as a source of power versus all the stake holders of the brand: power over customers, suppliers, competitors and even the very consumers you have the bond with. The brand would also generate added power with the media, key opinion leaders and employees. Once you have power, you can drive growth and profit, using that power to drive up price, drive down costs, gain market share and enter new categories. If your finance person asks “so what is the ROI on this”, I’m not recommending you say “we are focused on ROL buddy, not ROI” but what you should say is “we are investing in building a bond with our consumer that will give us more power that we can then wield much greater profit for our brand”

But seriously, having more love adds to the profits. Here are the 8 ways to turn brand love into more PROFITS for your brand.

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With all the love and power the Beloved Brand has generated for itself, now is the time to translate that into growth, profit and value. The Beloved Brand has an Inelastic Price. The loyal brand fans pay a 20-30% price premium and the weakened channels cave to give deeper margins. We will see how inelastic Apple’s price points are with the new iPad Mini. Consumers are willing to trade up to the best model. The more engaged employees begin to generate an even better brand experience.  For instance at Starbucks, employees know the names of their most loyal of customers. Blind taste tests show consumers prefer the cheaper McDonald’s coffee but still pay 4x as much for a Starbucks.  So is it still coffee you’re buying?

A well-run Beloved Brand can use their efficiency to lower their cost structure. Not only can they use their growth to drive economies of scale, but suppliers will cut their cost just to be on the roster of a Beloved Brand. They will benefit from the free media through earned, social and search media.  They may even find government offer subsidies to be in the community or partners willing to lower their costs to be part of the brand.  For instance, a real estate owner would likely give lower costs and better locations to McDonald’s than an indifferent brand.  Apple get a billion dollars worth of free media, with launches covered on CNN for 2 weeks prior the launch and carried live like it’s a news event.

Beloved Brands have momentum they can turn into share gains. Crowds draw crowds which spreads the base of the loyal consumers. Putting the Disney name on a movie generates a crowd at the door on day 1. Competitors can’t compete–lower margins means less investment back into the brand.  It’s hard for them to fight the Beloved Brand on the emotional basis leaving them to a niche that’s currently unfulfilled.  Walk past an Apple store 15 minutes before it’s open and you’ll see a crowd waiting to get in–even when there are no new products.

Beloved Brands can enter into new categories knowing their loyal consumers will follow  because they buy into the Idea of the Brand.  The idea is no longer tied to the product or service but rather how it makes you feel about yourself.  Nike is all about winning, whether that’s in running shoes, athletic gear or even golf equipment. When Starbucks went for pastries and sandwiches their loyal consumers quickly followed.

The more loved a brand is by consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be.


To read more on how to create a beloved brand, here’s a training workshop we lead with marketing teams around the world:

Also, if you’re interesting in Beloved Brands Training Programs for brand management, feel free to contact us to learn about our one day or three day boot camps for brand leaders. We believe that better leaders make better work which produces better results. Here’s more information.

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

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

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How severely damaged is the Toronto Maple Leafs brand?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

leafs-badI think the Leafs should be a little worried about the health of their brand. While they have been bad for the entire century so far, this year feels even more disconnected and puts them at risk, if things are not fixed. There are major signs of brand health issues, which usually show up in advance of any issues with brand wealth. But I think with a quick shot of the optimism drug over the summer, the crazy Leaf fans will be hooked again.

Here are the brand health issues that should raise concern:

Leaf game not shown on TV? Last Saturday, Hockey Night in Canada decided not to air the Leafs game on the main network for the first time in forty years. With TV media, there are so many games on TV and on-line, that the big Saturday night game is not the same. In fact, the biggest risk now is that I can see 82 games of any team I want.  

No sell out? This past Monday, the Leafs failed to sell out for the first time in 15 years. While giving up a little revenue for not selling out, the bigger risk here is that if tickets are going for $30, then it takes away the mystique of going to the game. The good news is the Leafs have announced they won’t raise ticket prices. I love that they actually felt compelled enough to announce this, which shows the true power of the brand.  

Fans cheering for the Leafs to lose: Not only are the Leafs tanking this season to get a good draft pick, but the fans are also cheering for the opponents so that the Leafs do lose. If the Leafs are bad again next year, the fans may again cheer against the Leafs. If this goes on for 5 years, do these fans go find another team?

Fans are mad at the current team: Fans are so enraged at the current crop of Leafs that they continue to boo the best players and have thrown sweaters on the ice in dis-respect of the team. The players took it upon themselves to “not salute the fans” as their retribution. It’s never good to go to war with the fans when the only thing you have is fans. 

The Leafs brand is on pause this year. The fans are on hold, waiting to see what happens next. I believe if the Leafs get rid of a few players, draft a big name (even if it’s not McDavid) and get a big name coach, they would create the perception that they are moving in the right direction. As we discuss below, the Leafs are not really focused on winning the cup, but rather giving the illusion and optimism that they “could” win the cup. 

The success of the Leafs brand defies logic

When we look at the most valuable sports franchises around the world, whether it’s Ferrari, Manchester United, Real Madrid, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers or New England Patriots, they usually have one thing in common:  THEY WIN.  And in most cases, they win a lot. We’ve never really found out what happens to those brands when they lose.  And then there’s the Toronto Maple Leafs who recently joined the ranks of the most valued brands, now worth an estimated $1.2 Billion. 

  • The last time the Leafs won a hockey championship was 1967, when Lyndon Johnson was President, The Beatles were releasing the Sgt Pepper’s album and Wal-Mart only had 24 stores (all still in Arkansas). It was even 8 years before Justin Bieber’s mom would be born.
  • The Leafs have made the playoffs once since 2004. None of their current players were even in the league in 2004. And they are the only NHL team not to make the playoffs during those years.
  • There were two major work stoppages in the NHL in 2005 and 2012–one wiped out an entire season, the other a half season. In both of those years, the value of the Leafs jumped up. And yet, since 2004, the value of the Toronto Maple Leafs has gone up from $280 Million to $1.2 Billion.

So clearly for the Leafs, actually playing and winning the games doesn’t really matter to value of the Leafs brand. Yes, Apple’s market value has gone up at a faster pace, but they’ve launched iTunes, iPod, iPhone, iPad and the Macbook during that time.  

Most great brands have a vision for the future: what’s the Leafs brand vision?

Like any sports team, the Leafs will state their vision of “we want to win the Stanley Cup”. It sounds good. It’s what you’re supposed to say. Proof for what the real vision might be in the fact that for past 15 years they were owned by a pension fund and they rewarded their President financially, not for how the Leafs did on the ice, but how well the Leafs did off the ice. And now they are owned by a media conglomerate who sees the Leafs as content to get the millions of insane Leafs fans watching in person, on TV and on-line. I believe a more appropriate Brand Vision for the Leafs is “to be the most beloved sports franchise” or even a stretch “to be the most valued sports franchise in the world”. 

Does winning matter?  Yes, but it’s a strategy to help the vision of being the most loved or most valuable sports franchise. It’s the “how” you get to the vision, but not the vision itself. The hook is to appear that you are doing the right things to try to win the cup–enough to keep the fan base engaged.

Holding the Leafs up to the principles of a beloved brand

I once had an economics professor who said: “economics proves that what happens in real life can actually happen in theory”. Well, I usually use the Apple brand to prove how the theories of Beloved Brands work, but let’s take the Leafs brand on a test run and see how they line up.

First, we believe that consumers connect with brands based on a “big idea”. That’s the tough question for the Leafs: what is their big idea? Is it the heritage/history, being the home team of the biggest hockey market or the great underdog story?  At times, it’s been the “loveable losers”, where the mediocre/good players like Palmateer or Vaive become legends in the community. But that’s still not enough to make the brand that connected. The big idea during Steinbrenner’s Yankees was “we will do whatever it takes to win–at any cost” whereas the Montreal Canadiens are all about “we maintain the pride and dignity of history and we’ll do what’s right in our pursuit of victory”. It’s hard to truly see a big idea to connect with the Leafs. While most fans have this nagging feeling in the back of their mind that the Leafs will never win in their lifetime, I believe they cheer for the Leafs “to stay engaged enough just in case there is that once in a lifetime chance to win the cup”. So the Leafs are more like a potential “once in a lifetime eclipse” that fans want to see or even a lottery ticket. The only other sports brand like the Leafs are the loveable Chicago Cubs.  If the Leafs are that “eclipse”, I’ve always debated that if they ever do win the Cup, would more people keep watching or would people stop watching. The Toronto Blue Jays may prove that once they won the World Series, the Toronto fans were like “great, so what’s next” and moved on. My guess is that I’ll never know the answer to this question, as I don’t expect the Leafs to ever win the cup.  

Once you have the brand idea for your brand, you need to map out the 5 Brand Connectors to help deliver that brand idea: the brand promise, strategy, brand story, innovation and a culture that helps deliver the promise.  



Arguably, the Leafs might be defying all 5 of these sources of connectivity. 

Brand Promise: 

Most beloved sports teams can say “we promise to deliver an on-field team that will always be competitive enough to win a championship”. The Yankees, Man U, Ferrari, the Canadiens, and Real Madrid can easily say that. The Leafs promise to “win a championship” feels hollow. If that was their promise, the brand would be a complete failure. Fans would walk away and the value of the team would fall. Well, at least for a normal team. When fans get excited about the Leafs, the world feels better, they are happy and optimistic for the future.

The real promise

The real promise for the Leafs is “we’ll make you feel good even if the pursuit of victory is greater than the victory itself.” Maybe if you have that underdog spirit in your own life, you see hope in the Leafs where no one else sees hope. But the problem for this year is that when they lose, that optimism comes crashing down. A friend of mine who is a Leafs fan had a baby a few weeks ago, and posted on Facebook “when do you break it to the kid that the Leafs won’t win a Championship in his lifetime?” Sadly, that kid will be a Leaf fan. He now bleeds blue. And will pay thousands of dollars towards the Leafs coffers over his lifetime. 


In terms of players, the Leafs have relied the last 15 years on signing free agents. But in managing the brand, they focus on hyping up the players, they build up the optimism at the beginning of each year and keep the fan base engaged with constant communication and stay reasonably competitive to at least give hope for getting in the playoffs. The Leafs managed to keep the fan base hooked by constantly feeding them optimism. The problem this year is that they’ve fallen so far out of the playoffs the talk of re-build has the fans confused. Those players they’ve hyped turned out to be jerks, who won’t salute the fans, refuse interviews and don’t even try on the ice. It’s hard for the Leafs to hype players that aren’t well-liked. 

Brand Story:

As I was growing up, the Leafs always successfully connected the past (Johnny Bower, Bobby Baun or Daryl Sitler) to the current team. The stories stressed the values of toughness, hard work and how the underdog always over-achieved in the face of adversity. That story fits nicely to the Leaf teams of the 90s with Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark and Felix Potvin who went to the semi-finals in back to back years. However, today’s current Leaf teams are the opposite:  over-hyped, over-paid and under-achieving players like Kessel and Phaneuf, certainly not aligned to the values of toughness and hard work. 


For a sports team, freshness comes through the signing of new players and then building optimism around those players. The problem is the salary cap and the current roster has the team trapped. The tanking to get a draft pick has been a good strategy as it will provide someone (McDavid or even Strome) that they can build around. You will see this summer that the Leafs will build all the optimism of a rebuild around the youthful team. And fans will buy into it.   


There are only two ways to experience the brand–either in person or on TV. Going to a Leaf game has a buzz and excitement to it. The tickets are usually so expensive that it is so rare for the average person to get to go. The TV games are rooted in history: “Hockey Night in Canada” at 7 pm has been one of the highest-rated TV shows since the 1950s. And so this year, we’ve now seen two things happen. Last Saturday, for the first time since the early 1970s, the Leafs were not shown on Hockey Night in Canada, with the CBC choosing the Montreal Canadiens game. It’s all about ratings, even though the network that shows the games owns the Leafs. And this past Monday, the Leaf game wasn’t a sellout, and on StubHub, you can easily get tickets for $25. So while this is your chance to finally go to a game, no one really wants to even go.

How the Leafs make money

Like any brand, there are really only 8 ways to make more money:  premium pricing, trading up with price, lower cost of goods, efficient spending, stealing share. getting loyal users to use more, entering new markets and finding new uses for the brand.



Ticket prices for the Leafs are the highest in the NHL–an average of $375 over 42 home games, which is three times the average ticket price for Detroit Red Wings or even six times the price for Tampa Bay. Getting tickets to a game is nearly impossible for the average fan. Every game is a sell-out. It’s a 40-year wait for Leaf season tickets. These end up in people’s wills. The ACC also uses the strong luxury box and platinum ticket sales to trade the business consumers up on price–so not only are they paying $1,000, but they also have to order enough food and drinks to support a luxury box. If the Leafs look at an extended downturn on a play or even a 5-year turnaround, it likely won’t impact the average price but it may impact the # of sell-outs–especially as the Leafs just experienced their first non-sellout in 15 years.  


Control of costs works in favor of the Leafs. The NHL has a salary cap that holds teams to $60 Million per year, which is 6% of the team’s brand value. For the other hockey teams worth $200 Million, that’s 30% of their brand value. That’s a huge competitive advantage for the Leafs–still defies why they can’t win. There’s no real need for “marketing costs” as every game is on TV, with normal exceptionally strong ratings. While the ratings are only in Canada, they are such a dominant ‘country brand’ that it makes the local market all of Canada, which means it has access to 30 Million people. The Leafs receive added earned media with 2 sports TV stations, 3 radio stations, and 3 major Newspapers constantly covering every move the team makes. Both sports stations hold a daily live show at lunchtime. 


The Leafs dominate the media landscape but end up sharing that revenue with the NHL. It’s estimated that 70% of the league revenues come from Canada–my guess is that most of that comes from the Leafs. For the Leafs merchandise sales are very strong. The Leafs announced it was changing its third jersey to be a replica of the 1967 jersey. Which means all those fans have to go out and drop another $129 on a new jersey. This past year, the Leafs have added a sports bar to the ACC, just outside the arena that has hundreds of TVs and seating for two thousand people. With a roster currently filled with unpopular players, the Leafs need a few popular players for the fans to put a name on the back to really drive up the merchandise sales.

Market Size:

The Leafs have expanded the size of the market by driving sponsorship and even creating Leafs TV. The team’s sponsorship drive is incredible–carrying an astounding 50+ sponsors on its roster–including separating out the banking category into Core Banking, Wealth Banking, Credit Card banking, which allows them to get money from three separate banks. Sponsorship is a money machine. The Leafs TV expands the brand for the most loyal followers to connect even more. The Leafs have also launched a bar attached to their stadium that holds another 2,200 fans who drink and eat during the 2 and 1/2 hour game. If the crowd shrinks or the Leafs lose early each time, this bar will be clearing out by the 2nd period. 

Income statement: 

In 2011 with the world facing a global recession, following up on a 29th place finish in the standings, the Leafs revenue went up ELEVEN PERCENT!!!  And then they raised ticket prices. Because of the player strike a few years ago, player costs have gone down from $69 million to $57 million. Revenue up, costs down–that’s a P&L the people of Price Waterhouse dream about. A lot of the value is now connected to how much money will be made in the future. The NHL just signed a 10-year labor contract giving the Leafs cost certainty and a 5-year media deal giving the Leafs revenue certainty. While I still don’t think the Leafs will win a championship in the next 10 years, I would bet they will hit $2 Billion.  

It’s not easy being a Leaf Fan. Yet like a drug, it’s not easy to stop being a Leaf fan.





Is it time we admit that the Apple BRAND is better than the Apple PRODUCT?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained


Apple is clearly the brand of our generation. In our house, we have an iMac desktop, 2 iPads, 3 iPhones, and two MacBooks.  I love Apple. But this past spring, as my phone contract expired, I started to wonder if I get the iPhone 5S or wait for the iPhone 6.  I was a free agent, and started to look around. I looked at the Android, but like many “Apple fans”, I viewed them as the competition, like a NY Yankee fan might view the Boston Red Sox. The more I dug in, the more I realized the Android phone was quite better than the iPhone: bigger screen, faster processor, better camera.  So I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Whaaaat? That’s right. A Samsung. I felt like a cult member who snuck out of the compound one night and drooled when I saw the Samsung phone. I could see the Galaxy was light years ahead of my iPhone.  Now that I see the iPhone 6, I’m glad I bought the Samsung instead of waiting.  

Yes, the Apple iPhone 6 news kinda fizzled, but does that matter anymore?

I’m no tech expert, but the iPhone 6 feels a very incremental technology. I’m sure it does a few things I’m not aware of or could appreciate. Financial analysts were so bored by the launch, many downgraded the stock. Yes, the Apple stock price is extremely high, but maybe it’s time for the stock to stop living and dying based on the next great launch.  And maybe, it’s time for us to realize that Apple has shifted from a product driven brand to an idea driven brand.  The real reason people buy Apple is the BIG IDEA that “We make technology so SIMPLE, everyone can be part of the future”. With Apple, it has become less about how we think about the product and more how we feel about the brand. While Samsung has a better product than they do a brand, Apple now has a better brand than they do a product.  Samsung can’t get past talking features instead of benefits, offering almost zero emotional connection beyond the product.  Apple has created such an intensely tight bond with their consumers, they are more powerful than your average monopoly. Apple uses that power with the very consumers who love them, against competitors who try to imitate them and through every type of media or potential key influencer in the market. Below we have mapped out the Brand Strategy Road Map for the the Apple brand.  

Apple isn’t really a technology leader, and likely never was. Yes, Apple had an amazing decade of new products from 2001-2011 that gave us the iPod, iTunes, Macbook Air, iPhone and iPad, but Apple is 
a quick follower who figure out the mistakes the technology leaders make and then cleans them up for the mass market. Apple exploits the fact that the first to market technologies are so badly launched (mp3 players, on-line music and tablets) the average consumer never really sees them, leaving the perception that Apple is the innovator. Apple’s product strategy is: “We bring technology that is simple and consumer friendly across a broad array of electronics products. Products have simple stylish designs, user-friendly functionality, convenience and speed.”  Apple’s brand story, told through great advertising like “Mac vs PC” is: “Technology shouldn’t be intimidating or frustrating. We make it simple enough so you can be engaged right away, do more and get more, with every Apple product you are use.”   As an example below, the  beautiful ads over the past year are less about the product features and more about how the brand makes you feel.  

The most Beautiful Apple Product Apple is now their P&L statement

Maybe we just need to relax on these Apple launches and admire Apple’s Profit and Loss statements.  Apple is going to sell about 80 million iPhone 6’s and I bet the iPhone 6 will be under many Christmas trees this year. Stores continue to be packed–it’s tough to even get an appointment.  The Apple retail stores have the highest sales per square foot, almost twice the #2 store, which is Tiffany’s selling diamond rings.  

Apple is now a huge mass market corporate brand, with a market capitalization of $600 billion, 3 times the value of companies like Coke, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer and IBM.  Apple has moved from the challenger type brand to the “king of the castle” brand. Back in the 1980s, IBM was the “drive the BMW, wear a blue suit with polished shoes” type brand, while Apple was “comfortable in your VW Bug, tee-shirt and sandals” brand. Apple was the alternative, anti-corporate, artist. But that’s changed. As much as Apple fought off and won against the corporate arrogant brands like IBM, Microsoft and Sony, they’ve now become that very type of corporate brand.

At Beloved Brands, we believe the more loved a brand is by it’s consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand can be.  The best example of this model is the Apple brand. 


In researching the Apple brand, and as a true brand geek like me, when I opened up their P&L statement I almost gushed:  I drooled over the compound annual growth rate, stared at the margin % and was in awe of how their fixed marketing spend stayed constant as the sales went through the roof.  It’s the P&L that every Brand Leader wants to leave for the next guy.  

Apple Brand > Apple Product

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

We make Brands better. We make Brand Leaders better.™

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


How to create and tell the story of your Brand

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

Sometimes, Brand Leaders write their strategic documents in such a boring way, others have a hard time following. If you as the Brand Leader are the only one who understands your brand, then you’re in trouble. The Brand story should distill everything you know about your brand (the vision, purpose, values, objectives, strategies, tactics, target market, insights, rational and emotional benefits, reason to believe) and organize it into something that is digest-able for everyone who might touch the brand–whether that’s consumers, advocates, influencers, employees, agencies, retailers or the media. 

So what makes a good story?

Before getting into your Brand story, think of all of the great Super Hero stories of Batman, Spiderman or Wonder Woman and you see some commonality in what makes a good story in general.  For this purpose, let’s use the fundamentals of a good Super Hero story and try to match up all the brand strategic inputs you may have to help tell the story. 

The basis of the Super Hero story usually starts with a conflict of Good versus Evil. There needs to be an Enemy and a Hero.  

Most brands started as products or services that handled some functional problem in the market, but as they matured and became more closely connected to their consumers, they evolved into a Big Idea, that fulfills consumers’ emotional needs.


brand idea evolution


Another way to say it, most great PRODUCTS were invented to solve a rational PROBLEM in your consumers’ daily life. Most great BRANDS solve an emotional ENEMY in your ongoing consumers’ life. The question you likely never ask is: who is the Enemy of your consumer? The conflict and resolution sets up the Big Idea of the story.  If you are the Apple brand, then you fight off the enemy of FRUSTRATION on behalf of your consumer. Unless you work in IT, you likely find computers extremely frustrating. We have all sat at our computer wanting to pull our hair out. Spending 38 minutes to figure out how print, getting Error 6303 message that says close all files open and reboot or buying a new computer and you need to load up 13 disks and 3 manuals to read before you can even email your friend to tell them how amazing your computer is. Apple has recognized the FRUSTRATION consumers go through and realized it was in the way of many consumers experiencing the potential of communications through computers. 

There is a substantial back story to explain what makes up the Super Hero.

There is a clear vision for a better future, a purpose to explain why the hero does what they do, and a set of values to explain what is right and wrong.  A brand should also be able to articulate their Vision for the next 10 years, The most successful brands start with a purpose driven vision (why) and match the strategies (how) and the execution (what) to the vision.  Start with the Question of WHY do you do what you do? If you are Apple, the answer would be “At Apple, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. We challenge ourselves to make a dent in the universe.”  What do you get for your brand, when you answer the question of “why are you in this business?”.

A good Super Hero story saves someone. A good brand should as well. Each story also has a distinct cry for help.  

As Steve Jobs said: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and then try to figure out where you’re going to sell it”  It’s important to tightly define who you will save and it starts with those who are the most motivated by what you do.  Pick a focused target market. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focus on those that can love you. Too many times, Brand Leaders blindly pick an idealized target market based on size and wealth of the target, figuring that will offer the highest return. However, going after the biggest potential target can sometimes lead to failure because they are already being courted by everyone else. And that large target when they might not like your product is just a recipe for failure. I like to challenge Brand Leaders to focus on figuring out who are the consumers that are already motivated by what you do. That’s the perfect match up to your brand.  You have to matter the most to those who really care. Just as the super hero always responds to a cry for help, the Brand must listen to the what they are saying. The best way to frame a consumer insight is to get in the shoes of the consumer and use their voice. Insight comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only one who felt like that”. Insight is about  “seeing below the surface”. To get deeper, keep asking yourself “so what does that mean for the consumer” until you have an “AHA moment”. What are the beliefs, attitudes or behaviors that help explain how they think, feel or act in relationship to your brand or category. What I recommend to Brands is that they frame insights in quotes and use the word I, forcing you to be in their shoes and using their voice. For a Bank with long hours, the insight would be: “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”.

A Super Hero is different than everyone else.  

For a Brand in a competitive world, you have to realize that no one brand can do it all. You have to decide on what you want to be from four choices: better, different, cheaper or else not around for very long. usp-2-0-2Giving 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 to everyone makes you nothing to no one. It just 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

There is some super power that makes them even better, without being vain. 

Just like the Super Hero knows they can help, the Brand also has to be able to tell the story of how they help out. Doing a Customer Value Proposition (CVP) helps to organize your thinking as a great tool for bringing the benefits to life.  slide1-4

  • Get all of the consumer insights and need states out. 
  • Match them up against the list of the best features the brand offers. 
  • Find the rational benefit by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and seeing the brand features from their eyes: start asking yourself over and over again “so if I’m the consumer, what do I get from that?”. Ask it five times and you’ll see the answers will get richer and richer each time you ask. 
  • Then find the emotional benefit by asking “so how does that make me feel?” Ask that five times as well, and you’ll begin to see a deeper emotional space you can play in and own. 

A good story is one that touches people in an emotional way. 

People tend to get stuck when trying to figure out the emotional benefits. I swear every brand out there thinks it is trusted, reliable and yet likeable. It seems that not only do consumers have a hard time expressing their emotions about a brand, but so do Brand Managers. Companies like Hotspex have mapped out all the emotional zones for consumers. I’m not a researcher, but if you’re interested in this methodology contact Hotspex at Leverage this type of research and build your story around the emotions that best fit your consumer needs. Leveraging Hotspex, I’ve mapped out 8 zones in a simplistic way below

Slide1A good Super Hero has to make difficult choices. They can’t do everything. It’s all about choices.

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. When you focus on the right choices, you end up with:

  • 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. 
  • Better ROE: Make the most out of your people resources.
  • 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.
  • More Competitive: As your reputation grows, you begin to own that on thing and your are able to better defend the positioning territory
  • 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.

Strategic Thinkers see questions before they see solutions. They map out a range of “what if” 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. They use knowledge and judgment about the long-term health and wealth of the brand. 

A good story is well-organized, has a consistent tone throughout the story and has layers that support the story.  

There is a Focus to the story: Using one motivated target market and one Unique Selling Proposition based on need states allows you to drive all your resources against strategies that will move the brand towards being more connected and loved. The story has an Early Win: Able to move a motivated target towards sales and share, plus establishing the brand’s positioning with a balance of rational and emotional benefits. The brand now has momentum and growth.There is this point in the story where you can start to Leverage those early wins into something even bigger: When you can take the emotional bond and translate it into a source of power the brand can use against all the forces in the market. And there is a Gateway to something bigger: When you are able to take the brand power and drive strong growth and profits. 

If you were to write the Starbucks, here’s how it might look;

  • Vision: Cherished meeting place for all your quick service food needs
  • Goals: Increase Same store sales, greater share of requirements from Starbucks loyalists
  • Key Issue: How do we drive significant growth of same store sales?
  • Strategy: Move Starbucks loyalists to lunch with an expanded lunch menu.
  • Tactic: Light lunch menu, increase desert offerings.

The strategic way I like to organize a brand is starting with the Big Idea for your brand and then ensuring the brand promise, brand story, strategy, freshness (innovation) and the experience (culture and operations) all match up to the Big Idea. If you are Apple, this is how you’d lay out the guts of your story. The idea is about taking the complexity out and making it so simple that everyone can be part of the future.  And then Apple lines up the promise, strategy, story, freshness and experience behind that big idea.  So if Apple is about simplicity, then my check out experience buying an Apple product better be simple.  

Slide1No Super Hero goes alone. They always have help.

And just like running a brand, the Brand Leader needs to be able to communicate the brand story in a way that elicits help from all the employees, the agencies.   

So how do we tell the story?

Here is a story board format that you can use to frame your story, whether telling it through a Powerpoint presentation, a video or even through a two page word document. The story makes it easy for everyone to digest and everyone to continue telling for those they influence. If it’s to your sales colleagues, they may have to explain it to customers, if it’s to your agency, they may have to convey it to their art director, and if it’s to advocates, they to portray it to their followers. Here’s a simple 15 questions to be asking

Slide1And if we were to layer in where each of these answers is hidden away in your plan, you can use this as a cheat sheet.

Slide1Depending on who your audience is for your story, you may wish to only use parts of this story board. For instance, if you’re talking to the Board of Directors you would use the the top part where you talk vision and purpose and values. If you are setting up the external communication of the brand, you’d talk target, insights and benefits. If you’re talking about go to market execution, you’d outline the plan, strategies and how the organization executes. Having these 15 answers allows Brand Leaders to keep the story consistent and aligned. 

Story telling is the simplest articulation of the complexities of your Brand 



How loved is your brand?

We believe a brand’s source of power is the emotional feelings it generates. With that power comes added profitability.

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 the power of connection, the brand can leverage that power into increased growth and profits. To read more, follow this presentation.


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 or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

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