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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How to write a brand plan that gets everyone on the same page

One of the most important skills marketers need to know is the fundamentals of writing a brand plan. Read our step-by-step process for how to write a brand plan that everyone can follow. Learn how to write a vision, purpose, key issues, strategies, and tactics. We have all the brand plan definitions, with examples and templates.  

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
Play Video

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!!!

Play Video

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

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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

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

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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.

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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

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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

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

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

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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
Play Video

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
Play Video

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

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

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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

Apple’s ‘work from home’ video absolutely nails the consumer insights

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

One of my favorite types of ads is the “consumer insights on film” as these connect with exactly how we feel about a situation. Apple’s latest ‘work from home’ video absolutely nails those consumer insights.

What is a Consumer Insight? Our definition for consumer insights is the little secrets hidden beneath the surface, that explain the underlying behaviors, motivations, pain points and emotions of your consumers. 

Consumer insights come to life through your advertising when told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “Hmmm, that’s exactly how I feel. I thought I was the only one who felt like that.” That’s why we laugh when seeing the way that consumer insight is projected with humor. That is why we get goose bumps when a consumer insight is projected with inspiration. And, that’s why we cry when the consumer insight comes alive through real-life drama.

Have a look at Apple's new work from home video

The Apple video is a raw demonstration of what we are going through as we work from home. Lots of little insights we can all relate to as we each experience the realities of work from home.  After a couple of days, it already has 13 million views. 

Explore our 360-degree mining tool for consumer insights

Building a complete picture of your consumer by looking at multiple sources is an excellent methodology to find consumer insights. Start with market data, and then add your observations, the voice of the consumer, emotional need states, and life moments. Here’s an example using consumers who are trying to quit smoking. 

Consumer Observations

What we can read: Use available data such as market share results, tracking studies, or category trends. Look for underlying explanations of the data breaks, drivers, inhibitors, as well as new trends among consumers, channels, and competitors. Tell the story beneath the data.

What we see: Use observations of consumer reactions, coming from focus groups, product tests, advertising testing, and direct consumer engagements to add to the insights. Watch how consumers respond.

What we sense: Listen to the voice of the consumer (VOC), assessing consumer comments on social media, brand reviews, and market research. Listen for specific word choices, tone, and phrases the consumer’s use.

What we feel: Use observations and listening to match the emotional need states with how the use of your brand makes them feel.

Day-in-the-life moments: Map out the consumer’s life with explanations of underlying behaviors, motivations, pain points, and emotions at any moment of the day or week. Conclude how parts of their life could impact their path to purchase.

The power of observation

Adding observations from focus groups, I could see how smokers become very agitated. We held two-hour focus groups and talked non-stop about what could get them to quit smoking. In the first hour, they were polite, but after one hour without a cigarette, I could see their agitation grow to a boiling point.   

When I listened further, I heard them say, “I feel guilty I can’t quit” or “I know I should quit” or “Whenever I quit, I feel I’m not myself. I get so irritable that I give up” or “I wish smoking wasn’t so bad for you because quitting smoking sucks.” These are some of the underlying feelings coming out, expressed in their words. 

Understanding the emotions

Using the emotional need states, I gravitated to the consumer’s lack of optimism or confidence to quit, how smokers feel out of control whenever they try to quit, and how they feel not themselves.
Observing how quitting smoking fits into their lives, I could see how they take their misery from trying to quit out on those around them. They linked the moment of quitting smoking with their “worst version of themselves coming out” and talked about “the monster.” Some said their spouse or friends had told them they would prefer they keep smoking rather than having to deal with this terrible version of themselves.

Consumer insight (connection point):

“I know I should quit. I’ve tried to quit smoking so many times, it’s ridiculous. I’m not myself. I’m grouchy, irritable, and feel out of control. Quitting smoking sucks!” When I shared this secret back with smokers who want to quit, they say, “Yup, that’s exactly how I feel.” 

Consumer enemy (pain point):

“I fear quitting smoking will bring out the monster in me, turning me into the worst version of myself.” 

Watch our quit smoking ad which demonstrates these consumer insights

Play Video

Build your insights right into the brief

Every brand concept should start with the consumer insights that connects the consumer. You should also make sure you have those consumers insights build into the creative brief. You will notice that our brief is half consumer, half brand, which is an indication that your creative delivery connects the consumer with the brand. 

If you want insightful work, like Apple’s work from home video, you need to do all the thinking and work to capture how consumers feel. Gather all the nuggets and display them on film, on a poster, your content stories or your new products. 

Consumer Insights

Now, you can get our ideal creative brief format

  • Get our Creative Brief template, Media Brief template, and our Mini Brief template in a downloadable PowerPoint file.
  • This includes a ready-to-use formatted blank slide with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own creative brief, media brief and mini brief for specific projects.

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

Ten questions to help you define the culture behind your brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The best brands of today spend as much effort marketing to themselves as they do to their consumers. While a culture will form naturally, you can use a brand purpose and values to steer everyone who works behind the scenes of your brand. 

Finding your brand purpose answers the big question of “Why does your brand exist?” It should force you to explore the underlying personal and honest motivation for why you do what you do. 

Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” It is an intersection of what you are good at, what you love, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.

brand culture

Finding your brand purpose

Brand purpose can be a powerful way to connect with both employees and consumers, helping define your brand soul. 

This Venn diagram looks somewhat crazy at first. It works as an excellent tool for building your brand’s purpose. This Venn diagram has four significant factors, which match up: 

  1. To start, does it fit with what consumers need or want?
  2. Next, does it fit the core values of your team?
  3. Then, does it deliver your passion in loving what you do? 
  4. Finally, can you build a beloved and successful branded business. 

Your brand purpose will come to life at the intersection that meets the consumer needs, fulfills your passion, stands behind your values, and yet still builds a successful branded business.

Five questions to help find your brand purpose

  1. To start, when it comes to your business, what aspect creates the most passion for you, and how does that passion build a bond with your most cherished consumers?
  2. Second, what is the most unique, ownable, and motivating offering from your business, that puts you in a position where you believe others cannot replicate what you do?
  3. Then ask, what is your core belief or behavior about your business that leads to creating the best consumer experience possible?
  4. Next, what do you do to make your brand one of your consumers’ favorite brands, and how is it making a difference in their day, year, or life?
  5. Finally, consider that we all have choices in life. What was the final reason you chose to build your life through this business, instead of the other options?
With the answers to these questions, begin piecing your purpose statement together. Here’s an example using Gray’s Cookies. 

Discovering your brand values

Brand values form the backbone of your organization. They may come from your background. It could be how you grew up. Or maybe, it is rules you identify with. It could be how you see your priorities in life. 

Your beliefs come from your experience. They explain why and how you choose to do business, how you treat your people, how you conduct yourself as a leader and as a person in the community. These beliefs should be personal, ethical, or rooted in frustration for how you see things happening in the world. 

Your inspirations should excite the team members who work behind the scenes of the brand. They should stimulate your people to go beyond the norms of effort or passion. 

It works best when your people have input into creating and building your values. They will feel included, heard, and invested in your brand’s success. The closer your values reflect the realities of what your people believe in, the more successful you will be in using those values to inspire greatness.

Five questions to help find your brand purpose

  1. To start, think of what is in your background–whether that is how you grew up, experiences that shaped the priorities in your life–that you bring to your business?
  2. Second, what are your beliefs that come from your life experience that can explain how you choose to do business? 
  3. Then ask, how does your life experience impact how you treat people, conduct yourself as a leader, and how it affects your perception as a business?
  4. Next, what are the inspirations from your life, whether a life lesson you keep thinking about or saying you repeat to yourself during a tough time, that shine through the way you do business?
  5. Finally, where do you see a behavior exhibited by one of your people when you think it is offside for the way you wish to do business, even if that behavior is generally-accepted in other companies?
Use the answers to piece your brand values together. Here’s an example using Gray’s Cookies. 





At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help clients build brands that consumers will love and make brand leaders smarter.

Here are the core beliefs that drive and separate Beloved Brands from everyone else.

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

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What a marketer really wants from their ad agency

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The relationship between marketers and ad agencies is a bit odd. Even the best of marriage counsellors might say it’s too dysfunctional to survive. I’ve been brought in a few times when a client said, “we want to fire our agency.” It is too easy to fire an agency. The first thing I see is flaws on both sides. And then I usually tell the client “you have to fire yourself first” and then see if you still think your agency is bad. Do everything to improve yourself to see if you can isolate the issue, because even if you go through with it, the work you do to improve will help you show up better to the next agency.

The best clients respect the process, the agency, and their own judgment. On the flip side, the best ad agency works for us, not our boss. They understand our strategies, give options, adjust to feedback, and teach us how to be better at our job. The obvious need is for great work, but it takes both working together to achieve greatness. 

Ad Agencies

What makes a great ad agency

1. My ad agency understands my goals, issues, and strategies.

I want an agency who write briefs and creative work that expresses my brand strategy. In today’s world, people on both sides–client and agency–are more focused on making cool stuff than creating work that delivers the strategy. Not enough are trained in strategic thinking, brand planning, and creative briefs.

As margins are squeezed on both sides, we are losing the “strategic planner” who is the interruptive voice in the room to make sure the strategy lines up to the consumer. I’d prefer investing in a great strategic planner instead of five client service people show up at every meeting. Even the best brand leaders struggle to translate their brand plan, into a creative brief. We need those strategic planners to help set up better insights and creative strategy.

2. We are here to make great advertising that builds my brand, not work that just win awards

I get that awards are part of the agency world, to reward exceptional work. I wish more award choices would focus more on moving brands forward. The best in marketing, see it as a puzzle, where they start by understanding the consumer, then figure out what connects and moves the consumer, and finally, what will trigger our consumer to move in a way that fits our strategy.

Stop getting so excited about stuff. Get about excited about what stuff does.

Instead of coming into the room with the “we are so excited” line, I want an agency to come into a room and say “we have an ad for you that will creatively accomplish the goal you laid out in your brand plan.” Then show me how you did it.

3. My ad agency gives me creative options, not strategic options

Come on agencies, clients want options. Get over it.

The difference for me is that I want creative options, not strategic ones. Each option has to deliver the strategy, not just various parts of the creative brief. There is nothing worse than agencies who tear apart the brief and deliver options for each part of the brief. As a client, I want a brief with a tightly defined target, one objective, one main message. There can be no tearing apart a big wide creative brief. As clients, options give us comfort. But even more importantly, options treat us with respect that we can still make the right decision.

As an aside, it’s somewhat crazy that ten agency people in a room all agree on which option is the recommended. If the same ten ordered pizza, we’d likely end up with 7 pizzas. I want an agency who is comfortable enough to show their disagreement candidly.

4. My ad agency should not be territorial

As a client, I want free and open access to planners and creative people. The best account people allow the client to communicate directly with the creative team. Most great creative teams I have worked with want direct access to the client, rather than have it be filtered through a series of carefully written contact reports.

5. Be fast and cheap when we need fast and cheap

Sometimes, I want the world’s most celebrated Michelin star chef to create a masterpiece. Other times, we need microwave pizza.

There is a reason why big agencies lost most of their client’s digital or social media: eight people in every meeting, 12-week timelines and need to hire the best photographer, director or writer for everything. We need it by 4pm today! If you were faster, cheaper and responsive, there would be no specialty agencies and no internal creative shops.

6. My ad agency must be willing to teach

When I was a new brand manager, I was lucky enough that my client services person (Leslie Boscheratto) taught me more about advertising than any client should have to learn. In fact, I’m still embarrassed how little I knew, yet thrilled at how much I learned from that team at Bates back in the mid-90s.

The media world is ten times as complex today as it was in the mid-90s. Brand leaders are more confused than ever. Every day, marketers have to hear: “you should be doing…xyz” coming directly from those with a vested interest, who are trying to sell xyz (their specialty) as the only way to go.

  • “You should be doing more mobile.”
  • “You should do more paid search.”
  • “Hey, you should do more social media.”
  • “You should do more digital.”
  • “You should be doing content, not advertising.”
  • “But, you should keep TV.”
  • “You should use more influencers, not advertising.”

I was lucky to have one media agency back in the day, who would provide a holistic media recommendation. Where is that objective voice of reason, who has no dog in the race? Your client needs and wants your help. No one else is helping them.

7. I want my ad agency to work with me, not for my boss

While the boss pays the agency and has the final say, the best ad agencies still know you are the client. Nothing worse than a client service person continually trying to go above your head.

I am a big believer in bottom-up marketing. The person who knows the brand situation the best should be the brand manager. If the VP believes they don’t, then get a new brand manager, instead of stepping in to do their job. The brand manager should tell the VP what to do not the other way around.

Same with the agency. Stop thinking the brand manager is just a speed bump to get to the VP. The best way for an agency to earn the trust of the client is to demonstrate that they work for the brand manager. Once you have that trust, it will earn you a seat at the table of their boss.

Oh, by the way, if the brand manager is viewed as really, really good…who do you think is the first person we ask if the agency is any good: that’s right, the person you’ve viewed as a speed bump. Not smart on your part.

Before you fire your agency, you should show up as a better client

Brand leaders need to take a step back and let the creativity of execution unfold. I always say that it is okay to know exactly what you want, but you should never know until the moment you see it. As the client, I like to think of marketing execution as the perfect gift that you never thought to buy yourself. How we engage our experts can either inspire greatness or crush the spirit of creativity. From my experience, experts would prefer to be pushed than held back. The last thing experts want is to be asked for their expertise and then told exactly what to do. There is a fine line between rolling up your sleeves to work alongside the experts and pushing the experts out of the way.

It is time to step back and assume your true role as a brand leader. Trust me, it is a unique skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide, without any expertise at all.

I come at this topic from the vantage of a client, having spent 20 years working as a brand leader. I am not an ad agency guy, but I have seen some great ad agencies and some not so good.

Brand training

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

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Our playbooks will show you new ways for how to think, define, plan, execute and analyze your brand

  1. You will find new strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  2. To define the brand, I provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We show a step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept. 
  3. For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the marketing communications plan, innovation process, and sales plan. 
  4. To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution with chapters on how to write a creative brief, how to make decisions on creative advertising and how to lead the media choices. 
  5. When it comes time for analyzing the performance of your brand, I provide all the analytical tools you need to lead a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand.  

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your brand and be successful in your marketing career.

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

Click on any of the icons above to go directly to the page where you can buy our books.