How to speed up your brain to engage your instincts in decision-making on execution

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

While you should go slowly on strategy, you should think quickly to engage your instincts in your decision-making with execution. When you first see an idea, use your fast-twitch brain muscles to pick the winner and reject the bad ideas. Think and feel your way to a decision, then follow through by trusting your gut feeling. Do not overthink and second-guess yourself, or you risk destroying the creativity.

I believe the best brands win because of the passionate and lasting love they establish with their most cherished consumers. It is the smart, creative marketing execution that consumers see and touch, whether it is innovative products, engaging advertising, exceptional service, or the overall consumer experience with the brand. 

How you think and how you make decisions

Use your natural style can inform how we show up as a brand leader, using that natural style to your advantage. Equally, I want you to use this model to learn how to use all four styles. You have to know when to speed up or when to slow down. You have to know when to go with your rational or emotional decision-making side. Use this tool to trigger your thinking on where is your natural style, and where is your gap.  

We each likely have a gap or blindspot with one of these styles. At some point, you will fail in marketing if you get stuck in one style, and if you do not address your gap. 

When I entered marketing, my natural style was the instinctual thinker, who went with quick, emotional gut instincts. I had enough taskmaster abilities to get things done. It took added experience for me to learn to slow down and add the strategic thinking style I needed to be successful at more senior levels. I will admit to a blind spot on the consensus socializer. I was a driver-type leader, with a lower EQ, who was unable to observe or hear the personal objections of others, especially coming from the other functional areas. I thought work that I considered to be great would be viewed the same way by everyone. You should learn to sell your ideas. 

Apply the right style at the right time

To be successful as a brand leader, you must be able to maneuver through all four leadership styles as you move from strategy to execution.

I want to introduce you to my Strategic ThinkBox and Execution PlayBox concept, which I have borrowed from sports. For instance, in golf, using a ThinkBox forces you to consider everything you are facing before taking the shot. Look at any lakes or bunkers in the way, the wind condition, or how well you are playing that day. Then, decide on your shot strategy. As you move to a PlayBox, visualize the ideal shot, think and feel your way through the mechanics of your swing, and trust you are making the right shot. Do not overthink the strategy during the execution.

With your brand, you should use a Strategic ThinkBox to get a 360-degree view of the situation before taking action. Move slowly with questions that challenge your brand’s core strength, gauge the bond you have with your consumers, assess your brand’s competitive position, and understand your brand’s business situation. 

Once you have completed your thinking, move to the Execution PlayBox. Use your instinctual thinker style to see your way to an ideal execution, fast-thinking, gut feel, and emotions to find a smart, creative solution. Once you make a decision, shift to a consensus socializer style, to sell your ideas throughout the organization. Listen to the input of others, and use your influence across the organization to gain alignment. After you have consensus, you now have to move to a taskmaster style to get it done, stay organized to hit critical milestones and push the functional experts to deliver their greatness on your behalf.

Following the analogy from sports, you should avoid revisiting your strategy while you are executing, as it will only cause doubt and confusion among the team that can cause unnecessary spin and will slow you down.

Instinctual thinkers move fast and push for greatness

While you should go slowly on strategy, you should think quickly with execution. When you first see an idea, use your fast-twitch brain muscles to pick the winner and reject the bad ideas. Think and feel your way to a decision, then follow through by trusting your gut feeling. Do not overthink and second-guess yourself, or you risk destroying the creativity.

I believe the best brands win because of the passionate and lasting love they establish with their most cherished consumers. It is the smart, creative marketing execution that consumers see and touch, whether it is innovative products, engaging advertising, exceptional service, or the overall consumer experience with the brand. 

As the brand leader, when you see new ideas coming from your team, asking, “Do you love it?” Should be the first filter for what makes great work. Great brand leaders can never settle for O.K. Each time you reject O.K., the work naturally gets better. When you love your work, you will fight for it, with your agency, your boss, or anyone in the way. Your experts will see your passion shining through.  

The pressure and speed of brand management jobs can suck the creativity out of any marketer. They run from meeting to meeting, one minute it is a forecasting meeting, then talking with a scientist about a new ingredient, or working on a presentation for management. All of a sudden, you jump into a creative meeting and can’t find your instincts. I see many brand leaders show up in a confused state, unable to lead the process and incapable of making a creative decision.

I created a gut instincts checklist to help get you back to where you should be. The checklist forces you to explore your passion for the idea, the strategy you have been working on for months, and connect with consumers. Use your common sense to make sure the idea breaks through the clutter of the market, fits with the brand, communicates the main message, and sticks in the minds and hearts of consumers. Finally, pride goes beyond passion because the best marketers I have seen want to leave a legacy of outstanding work. 

How to speed up your brain to engage your gut instincts with execution decision-making

  1. Focus on your first impressions. Do you love what the marketing execution work has the potential to do? Will you be proud of this work as your legacy? Do not take notes at a creative meeting. When you focus on details too early that you miss out on visualizing how big the idea could be.
  2. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. Your job is not to represent the brand to the consumer, but to represent your consumer to the brand. Learn who they are, and observe how they talk, respond, and act. Try to react as they might. Choose marketing execution work that speaks directly with the consumer. Leverage consumer insights to connect, deepen the bond with consumers, and build memories and rituals. 
  3. Make sure the marketing execution fits with the brand and distinguishes it in the marketplace. Make sure it delivers the brand idea, leverages your creative assets, and fits with the tone of the brand. Know the functional or emotional benefits that motivate consumers and will be ownable for the brand.
  4. Find the magic within the smart, creative marketing execution. Make sure the work will be different enough to capture attention within the clutter of the market to engage consumers with the brand. Focus on communicating the brand idea in a way that is easy for consumers to understand and motivating enough to move consumers to think, feel, and act. 
  5. Stay in the moment. Relax, smile, have fun, stay positive. If you get too tense, stiff, serious, you will negatively impact the team. Do not come up with concerns that are not there or cast every possible doubt that can destroy the creativity of an amazing idea. These doubts will get in the way of your instincts.

Use our gut instincts checklist to handle your decision-making at the creative meeting

In your next creative meeting, you should think fast with your instincts while trying to represent your consumers. View the work through the eyes of your customers. I would not even let my agency do a setup of the work. I said, “Just show me the work as my customer sees it.” I felt any setup or explanation clouded my judgment and impacted my instincts. As you are sitting in that decision-making hot seat at a creative meeting, here are challenging questions to ask yourself. 

  • What does your gut instinct say? You might be coming from a 3-hour meeting and it is not easy to change speeds as you head into a creative meeting. Relax, find your creative energy, let it soak in, and use your quick-twitch instincts. Do you love what the marketing communications work has the potential to do? Will you be proud of it as your legacy?
  • Does the work deliver the strategy? Slow down with some thinking time after the meeting. In a quiet place alone, make sure it delivers your strategy. Does it match up to the objective in the creative brief? Does it achieve the desired customer response? Will it have an expected market impact and brand performance? Don’t over-think and talk yourself out of something that works.
  • Will the work build a bond with customers? Will it speak directly to the customer target, leverage insights to connect, deepen our bond with our customers, or build memories and rituals?
  • Does the marketing communications fit with the brand and distinguish it in the market? Will it deliver the brand idea, leverage your creative assets, and fit with the tone of the brand? Does it use the functional or emotional benefits to own a competitive space that is motivating to customers and ownable for the brand? Is it different enough to capture attention within the clutter? Does the creative naturally set up the main message and move customers to think, feel, or act? 
Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

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Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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. 

How to transform your brand for the market reboot during Covid-19

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

For marketers, the first few months of the Covid-19 panedemic has not been our finest moments. The first few moves that brands made were all the same. Send out re-assuring emails to everyone, widen your logo and thank the healthcare workers. The problem is that if every brand does the same thing, you will end up lost in a sea of sameness. No creativity. 

We have witnessed panic-selling with people adding everyone on LinkedIn, with a desperate attempt to drive quick revenue, forgetting your prospect is also in panic mode.

We are seeing lots of good initiatives, with a few small ideas to alleviate consumers fears. The new normal includes contact-less pizza delivery, curb-side pickup at retail, online yoga, cook-from-home recipes and kits, distancing lines on retail floors and seniors-only shopping hours. As consumers, we have quickly accepted these ideas. 

How risky is your business for social distancing during Covid-19?

In a world of social distancing, people fear crowded places where there is a risk of touching. Grocery stores are limiting how many can go into a store and putting lines on the floor to encourage the six-foot gap. Let’s take this further and explore how brands currently show up concerning crowds and direct contact. 

Isolated / no touch brands will thrive

These isolated activities, where there is no touching, will thrive this summer. Brands involved in running, golf, home gyms, and boating are perfect up for social distancing. Peloton stationary bikes announced they are stopping advertising because they can’t keep up with increased demand. Golf courses, where open, are reporting double the activity versus last year. 

Home delivery and grocery stores will also do well. Grocery stores may need to find ways to make the consumer experience more enjoyable. Masks and lines on the floor are a good start, but it adds tension to the shopping experience. We see in the graph below how grocery store sales are up significantly for March 2020, while restaurant sales are down proportionately.  

Brands that operate in a crowded / no touch quadrant must help isolate consumers

During Covid-19, the brands in this quadrant will have to find creative ways to deal with the crowds to ensure social distancing. From the photos of the crowded beaches in Florida and California, it is obvious we can’t rely on people to self-police themselves in terms of social distancing. Theme parks like Six Flags and Disney better come up with creative solutions to make sure guests feel safe.  

The high touch brands must protect consumers

Many of these brands suffer from the proximity of direct face-to-face contact with customers such as hairdressers, massage, and nails. The use of masks and gloves on both workers and customers will be essential. What other creative ways can these brands convey that it is safe for customers?

  • Service providers are tested daily (assuming testing will get easier) before each shift. 
  • The workplace will be cleaned every hour. 
  • All customers are tested for temperatures, required to wear masks/gloves. 

For hotels, they will have to dial up their cleaning rituals and prove to their customers that they are going way beyond expectations. Airbnb will suffer because it will be hard for consumers to the individual landlord is doing everything possible to keep the rental unit clean. Airbnb has announced this week they have let go of 25% of their staff. 

Busy / high touch

This quadrant will be the hardest hit by Covid-19, especially bars, restaurants, and transportation, who rely on crowds to drive volume efficiency. 

Even as things open up, this segment will need the most creativity to bring back consumers. While governments around the world are giving money to their citizens and companies, they might consider a $100 or $200 gift card that must be used in the restaurant and tourism industry. I will show you a very creative idea below. 

Brands need to reduce personal contact and find new ways to isolate customers

As you can see with the arrows above, during Covid-19, brands need to find new creative ways to reduce direct contact and create isolation for customers to feel safe. I also want to see brands still make the consumer experience enjoyable. 

Restaurant creates greenhouse type pods to help isolate consumers

A Dutch restaurant has come up with a way to isolate people so they can dine in public while staying safe during Covid-19. Eten Restaurant in Amsterdam has created a dining concept they call “Serres Sépparées” (Separate Greenhouses in English) that allows their guests to enjoy a plant-based meal with a beautiful waterside view of the city. The restaurant now reports they are fully booked up through the end of June. I love this idea because the greenhouse idea is a perfect fit for a vegan restaurant. Other restaurants should try their version of these booths. 

Parking lot creates drive-in movie theater to help consumers get a happy moment

As movie theaters have shut down during Covid-19, one multiplex in Schertz, Texas, has converted its parking lot into a temporary drive-in theater. They painted the side of the theater with high-grain white paint that films can be projected on and used AM/FM radios to broadcast the sound inside each vehicle. They provide food options for each car. They’ve created an old-fashioned drive-in. I would love to get to one of these. 

Supermarket on wheels borrows from ice cream trucks that circle neighborhoods

Yes, we can get home grocery delivery, or we can line up outside the grocery store and then go in with masks and gloves trying to avoid people, but it feels like a high-stress, high-speed game of Ms. Pacman, as you try to prevent the humans coming near you. 

A Toronto entrepreneur is launching “Grocery Neighbour,” which is a fleet of trucks that will each operate like a supermarket on wheels. The idea is to create a grocery store that works like the old ice cream trucks that circle the neighborhoods. The idea helps to reduce the crowd you might find in a grocery store, and allow you to shop for the more difficult items such as produce and fresh meats. 

What is your tranformational thinking that will help your customers during Covid-19?

Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

Marketing training Video
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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. 

How to conduct a key issues review on your brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The key issues facing a brand start with what is in the way of achieving the brand vision. 

From my consumer-packaged-goods marketing days, I learned the discipline of asking the right questions, before moving to figure out the solution. Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions. Strategic thinkers first dive deep to make sure they understand what is truly happening. Then they map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planners who can see connections. So it fits that you should do the work to figure out the right questions on the business before figuring out the right answers.  

Start with our Strategic ThinkBox and Marketing PlayBox

I want to introduce you to my ThinkBox concept, which I have borrowed from sports. For instance, in golf, using a ThinkBox forces you to consider everything you are facing before taking the shot. Look at any lakes or bunkers in the way, the wind condition, or how well you are playing that day. Then, decide on your shot strategy. As you move to a PlayBox, visualize the ideal shot, think and feel your way through the mechanics of your swing, and trust you are making the right shot. Do not over-think the strategy during the execution. 

With your brand, you should use a Strategic ThinkBox, to get a 360-degree view of the situation, before taking action. Consider your brand’s core strength, the bond you have with your consumers, your brand’s competitive position, and your brand’s business situation. Once you have completed your thinking, use the Execution PlayBox to see the ideal execution, think and feel your way, then trust your instincts.  

As I created the Strategic ThinkBox, I made it so that each of the four questions uses a forced choice to make decisions, where you must focus on only one possible answer for each question. 

  1. What is the core strength that will help your brand win?
  2. How tightly connected is your consumer to your brand?
  3. What is your current competitive position?
  4. What is the current business situation your brand faces?

Start with your brand’s core strength 

Decide which of four choices you will lead with: product, brand story, consumer experience or price. Your core strength will change your entire strategy, including the brand messages and the focus of your investment. In the next chapter, I show a unique process for how to choose your brand’s core strength and then show you how to write smart, strategic objective statements around your core strength.

Look at your consumer strategy 

Start by determining where your brand currently sits on the brand love curve, whether your brand is unknown, indifferent, like it, love it, or at the beloved stage. The goal is to tighten the bond with your consumer and move them from one stage to the next. In a later chapter, I will show you how to use brand funnel data, the voice of the consumer, and market dynamics to determine where your brand sits on the brand love curve. I will outline clear game plans for each stage.

Choose your competitive stance

Regarding the competitive strategy, you must choose from one of four different types of competitive situations you find your brand operating within. The power players are the dominant leader in the category and take a competitive defensive stance. The challenger brands have gained enough power to battle head-to-head with the market leader. The disruptor brands have found a space so different they can pull consumers away from the significant category players. Craft brands aggressively go against the category with a niche target market and a niche consumer benefit. They are small and stay far away from the market leaders. Each competitive situation leads to different strategy choices.

Assess your situation

A brand must look at the situational strategy, which starts with understanding your brand health, looking at both internal and external factors. Choose one of four potential situations: whether you keep the momentum going, face a business turnaround situation, realign everyone behind a strategy, or your brand is a start-up. Each situation leads to distinct strategies and leadership styles to deploy. 

Conduct a situation analysis

Before you plan where to go next, you need to understand, “Where are we?” A deep-dive business review should look take a 360-degree view to dig into the issues related to the marketplace, consumers, competitors, channels, and the brand. Later in the book, I will go deeper into how to conduct a deep-dive business review. 

For the brand plan, provide a summary of the factors driving the brand’s growth, the factors inhibiting the brand’s growth, the untapped opportunities, and the potential threats you see. 

  • The drivers are the factors of strength or inertia, which are currently accelerating your brand’s growth. These are brand assets, successful programs, favorable consumer, technology, and channel trends. Drivers also include new products, successful advertising, and performance in retail channels. 
  • The inhibitors are the factors of weaknesses or friction that slow down your brand’s growth. These are the “Achilles heel” of the brand, which could include unfavorable consumer trends, changes in the way people shop, competitive pressures, and even gaps compared to your competitors. 
  • The opportunities are specific untapped areas in the market that could fuel future brand growth. They include unfulfilled consumer needs, new technologies on the horizon, regulation changes, competitive openings, new distribution channels, or the removal of trade barriers. 
  • The threats are identifiable activities that could impact your brand’s growth in the future. These include significant competitive activity, competitive technology gains, changing consumer dynamics, unfavorable distribution changes, or future potential trade barriers, which would impact your brand’s growth. 

Narrow your focus

While you brainstorm a long list, narrow your focus to the top three points for each of the four areas. As you move from the analysis to the issues, ensure you find a way to continue or enhance the drivers, while you minimize or reverse the inhibitors. You also want to build specific plans to take advantage of the opportunities and reduce or eliminate the most severe threats.

Key issues

Lay out the key issues that answer, “Why are we here?” by taking the summary findings of the deep-dive analysis and drawing out the significant issues in the way of achieving your stated brand vision. 

A great way to find the issues is to brainstorm up to 30 things in the way of your vision. Then, narrow down your list to the top three to five significant themes you see. Take the themes and begin to write the top issues in a rhetorical, strategic question format to prompt a few different strategic options for how to solve each issue. Spend serious thinking time on these questions because the better the strategic question you ask, the better the strategic answer you will get.  

Example of using the four strategic questions to focus your brand’s key issues

Another excellent methodology for finding key issues is to go back to the four strategic questions model I outlined in the strategic thinking chapters. This thinking ensures you take a 360-degree view of your brand. Looking at the example below, I have used the four strategic questions and developed four specific questions that fit Gray’s Cookies.

  

With various ways to brainstorm and find the issues I recommend for the annual brand plan, focus on the top three key issues, which set up the top three strategies. A long-range strategic roadmap can typically handle up to five key issues, then five strategies.

The better the question, the better your solution.

Make sure you find the right level of the key issue

Too low: How do we get consumers to use more coupons?

  • In this example, the key issue is too specific and too tactical to set up a strategic solution. 

Too high: How do we become the #1 brand? 

  • This key issue is too general and too broad of a question to lead to a pinpointed, strategic solution. It is more suited to a question on brand vision.

Just right: How do we drive usage among loyal consumers? 

  • With this example, the key issue does an excellent job of addressing an obstacle in the way of the vision, yet it is big enough to leave you sufficient room to explore various strategic solution

You can purchase our brand plan presentation format in a downloadable PowerPoint template

Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

Marketing training Video
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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. 

The best Michael Jordan ads of all time

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

In the spring of 2020, the biggest sports story is Michael Jordan with “The Last Dance” documentary giving us the most inside look at Michael Jordan’s life we have ever seen. The documentary is well done, almost a soap opera with a new villain each episode, whether it is Jerry Kraus or the Bad Boy Pistons. There is something captivating about Jordan’s intense pursuit of perfection.

Michael Jordan is a marketer’s dream, including his own Air Jordan brand with Nike or with McDonald’s, Coke, Hanes, and Gatorade. Jordan is still one of the highest-earning athletes with a net worth of $2 Billion.  

To satisfy our thirst for more Jordan, here are the six best Michael Jordan ads we have ever seen 

Air Jordan

Jordan vs. Jordan for Gatorade

Released in 2003, as Jordan’s career was winding down, this is a CGI editor’s dream. This Gatorade ad shows 39-year-old Jordan playing his 23-year-old younger self. With such an amazing production, eyes are fooled into thinking “how did they do this” using Harlem Globetrotter’s Kevin Daley serves as a body double.

Michael Jordan vs. Larry Bird for McDonald's

Shot in 1993 for the Super Bowl, I love this simple game of horse between these two legends. For basketball fans, one line that stuck was “nothing but net.” Whether on the basketball court or throwing paper into the wastebasket at the office, any made shot elicited the “nothing but net” line. 

Jordan vs. Mars Blackman (Spike Lee)

Back in the late 1980s, Nike used the odd combination of Michael Jordan and Spike Lee, using the fictional character, Mars Blackman, from Spike’s “She’s gotta have it” movie. I love these ads. 

"Be like Mike" for Gatorade

A bit of a wholesome jingle, gave the Gatorade brand the chance to show a warmer side of Jordan. 

Original Air Jordan ad

Marketers love creating scarcity, so consumers think they are getting something no one else can get. For an odd rule, the NBA banned the original Air Jordan shoes because the color ratio on the shoe did not include enough of the color white. Nike jumped all over this “banned” shoe idea to create this iconic ad. 

Failure

At the height of what you are watching with “The Last Dance” documentary, Nike released an ad that spoke to how many times Michael Jordan has failed, and how that fuels him to succeed. 

I love the copy of this ad. 

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot — and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

Marketing training Video
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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. 

The leader behaviors of the best brand leaders

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The leader behaviors of the best marketers include how to be accountable for results, use people leadership to build bench strength of your team, exhibit broad influence across the organization, bring an authentic style, so your decisions are clear, and run the business like an owner with decisions that drive the success of the business.

To achieve success, marketers should focus on the marketing skills, leadership behaviors, and on-the-job experiences you collect throughout your marketing career. While many will show up naturally in your career, you can end up with specific gaps due to specific jobs you have along your journey. At any point in your career, you can assess where you stand and which gaps you need to fill in. 

The leader behaviors you should focus on

  1. You must be accountable for results, holding everyone accountable, getting things done, while staying on strategy and learning to work the system with every functional group throughout the organization. 
  2. Take on the people leadership, managing your core team, and being genuinely interested in your people’s development. You must coach, teach, and guide the team with honest assessment and feedback.  
  3. Exert broad influence across the organization, being the one to make decisions and control the strategy when executing through others, casting your influence into other functions by think of what others need. 
  4. Bring a consistent and predictable style, aware of your impact beyond your team, exhibit leadership under pressure. Be flexible and accommodating to others.  
  5. Run the business like an owner, accountable to both the long-term outlook and show-term profit of the brand, not you personally. Make decisions that benefit the brand, consumers, customers, marketplace, and society. Live and breathe the culture of those who work behind the scenes of the brand.  

I have broken each of these five leader behavior areas into 20 overall brand leader behaviors you need to be a successful brand leader. As you move up in marketing roles, these leader behaviors become equal in importance to the skills you collect along the way. 

As a brand leader, embrace these 20 leader behaviors to achieve your full potential

1. Be accountable for results

The best brand leaders take complete responsibility for everything that happens on the brand and take responsibility for everyone who works on the brand. There are no excuses, just explanations with a plan to fix. Marketing is about knowing the right thing to do and then make it happen. The best brand leader does both, while those who fail, likely only do one. They either don’t know what to do, or they fail in working the system to make it happen. 

 

The four behaviors that make you accountable for results: 

  • Hold everyone accountable for the goals of their tasks. Every project is a collection of subject matter experts. You must learn the motivations and work styles of each team member and inspire them to deliver. 
  • Be the one who makes it happen, get things done; don’t let details or timeline slip. As the brand leader, you are the only point person expected to deliver. Everyone else must deliver it to you. Stay aware of the details, to manage any possible slip, and work with your team to take action and catch back up. 
  • Stay on strategy, eliminating the ideas not focused on the vision/strategy. Avoid any resource-draining projects that do not move you closer to your brand vision. Use the planning and execution process to ensure the work you agree to deliver stays on strategy. 
  • Work the system behind the brand. Inspire everyone on the team to deliver their greatest work while continually challenging them through questions to help you understand the issues they face. You have to know when to stay out of their way. And, you have to know when to roll up the sleeves to work alongside them to knockdown roadblocks.    

 

Own the solution

When you push for execution ideas that are different enough to stand out from the clutter of the marketplace, it brings a risk that it may or may not work. You have to own the results, and when it does not work, you need to own the next solution as much as you owned the first solution.
To start, you must make sure everything you do lines up to your recommended strategy that answers, “How can we get there?” You must be able to explain how your strategic choices depend on market opportunities; you see whether it is something happening with consumers, competitors, or situations. 
Your strategies must provide clear marching orders that define the strategic program you are investing in, the focused opportunity, the desired market impact, and the payback in a performance result that benefits the branded business. You must make sure your team is fully aware and bought in on every strategy, and then your role shifts to holding them accountable for staying on strategy. Whenever you see someone go off strategy, challenge them, and get them back. 
 

Own the execution but avoiding distractions

The tactics you choose must answer, “What do we need to do?” The tactics must be framed entirely by your strategy and stay on track to move you closer to your vision. The investments you make must deliver the highest return on investment and the highest return on effort for your branded business.
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Just because it may work doesn’t make it the right thing to do. It is easy to get distracted by the shiny new toy, the loudest voice in the room, or the immediate problem you can see in front of you.  Yes, we reward action too much. Too many marketers think it is a choice between the best options, and many times forget the “don’t do it” option.f
When my team took on new projects, I used to say, “Is it a strategy or a hobby?” To me, a hobby takes the same resources as a strategy, but it does not move your brand an inch closer to your stated vision. After you finish your hobby project, take a look, and your vision will be as far away as it was before you started the project. Avoid the hobby. It is easy for marketers to be attracted to the shiny new toy, especially as we see new media tools or apps come out. 
The best brand leaders to recognize and eliminate any hobbies that waste resources without moving the brand forward, so the team can focus their limited resources on those projects that will provide the highest return.
 

Own the recovery

Not everything will go right. With many complex projects in marketing, whether new adverting or launch, there will be mistakes by your team, there will be missed milestones that impact others, and events that happen outside of your control. You have to run every project so you stay aware of the details and changes that force you to make adjustments. Hold regular checks to make sure everyone on the team is held accountable to deliver on the expectations of the organization. Stay on top of timelines, adjusting to changes and knocking down any bottlenecks that could impact the final delivery. 
If something does not work as planned, you must be able to explain the details of what went wrong, and what you are doing to fix it and get it back on track.  

2. Take on the people leadership role

You might feel glad you have a team who can do the day-to-day tasks, so it frees you up to do strategic thinking, or you might think your role is to fix your direct report’s weaknesses, so they never look bad, or even worse, never make you look bad as a manager. You might think your role is to conduct all the performance reviews or think your job is to get your direct report promoted. I have witnessed each of these management types, some I have worked for, and others have worked for me. These are not the people leadership styles you need to be one of the best brand leaders. Be better.

Yes, you have to coach your team on the day-to-day execution. While it is one thing for you to stay focused on your own to-do list, as the leader, you now have to keep your team focused on what matters, through regular communication to stay in touch with each team member, to ensure they are focused on solutions that drive business results. It is easy to create make-work projects or start spinning your team with too many ideas.

The best brand leaders are the ones who create other great brand leaders 

As we go through the skills, behaviors, and experiences for marketers throughout this book, you should be thinking about how you can use this with your people. You can use these tools to help your people achieve their career goals. Coach and teach on the core marketing skills they need. Challenge on the behaviors and set them up to learn from the on-the-job experiences.

As the team leader, tap into the pride of your people. When you get to know each person, try to observe what it is they are most proud of because you can use that pride to set challenges for them and then be able to positively reward them in ways that push them to achieve what they never thought they could.    

The four people leadership behaviors you need:

  • Manage your core team with a push for focus, communication, solutions, and results. Use each team member’s strengths to run your brand and achieve the business results. 
  • Be interested in your people’s development and career. Get to know your people and show genuine interest, or your people will quickly realize and disengage from you as a leader. Treat each person as an individual with a unique set of skills and gaps. You have to understand their career aspirations and build a realistic plan for how they can get there. If they know you are in their corner, they will deliver their best. 
  • Coach, teach, and guide your team to deliver their best performance. The better your people, the better your results. When you can inspire everyone to give their best to the brand, the collective achievements will help the brand over-deliver on their goals. Teach what you have learned, being patient with your people. Coach them to perform at their best, reward them when it works, and help them when they miss. 
  • Provide honest assessment and feedback to your people. Use your judgment on the right level of feedback, sometimes on the spot, to handle the specific situations. Other times, use quieter moments of reflection when you can build on their strengths and challenge each person on closing the gaps you observe. 

3. Broad influence throughout your organization

One of the hardest leader behaviors to learn is how to exert your influence across the organization, working directly with sales, operations, R&D, finance, outside agencies, and those within your company who deliver the customer experience. Many times, the people you deal with are conduits to others, so you need to ensure they carry your message and decisions forward to those beyond your direct contact. 

Your biggest challenge will be how you show up to each expert, and then what you expect from them won’t always match up to what inspires them in their jobs. The best brand leaders know how to control the strategy yet give freedom to the execution to the experts who surround them. 

The four behaviors that help you exhibit broad influence: 

  • With each meeting you go into, use active listening to seek out the opinions of experts to gather enough information to be able to make a decision.  
  • Control the brand strategy, yet stay flexible to allow highly creative ideas with the marketing execution.  
  • Be active in building many relationships to earn the trust of cross-functional experts that will allow you to exert your influence throughout the organization.
  • Think of others beyond themselves, with empathy for the pressure and challenges others face. Use questions to help you understand the issues, and with a clear view, provide an ideal solution.

Working with everyone across the organization

Salespeople are relationship-based. They are looking to balance the needs of the brand with the needs of their customers. The best salespeople will lay out the issues faced by their customers, and then will want to negotiate with you on behalf of their customers. Marketers are not naturally good at negotiating and dig their heels in too many times. When you listen to the concerns of your salespeople and be open to adjusting your program, they will be more willing to carry your brand message to their customers.

Supply chain managers want to dig into the performance data with you, so they can present their forecasting conclusions that make logical sense. Once all the numbers are on the table, supply chain managers want decisive answers from you, so they can carry your brand needs to manufacturing plant managers and suppliers. 

Agency account managers want you to be open to new marketing execution ideas, and they want you to provide clear direction and expectations to ensure they can run an efficient agency team on your business. They do not want spin. It makes your business inefficient, frustrating, and unprofitable for their agency. Their role is to represent your brand to experts at their agency, and they want you to provide inspiration that keeps their people motivated, so they are willing to give their best ideas to your brand.

The best finance manager will challenge your strategies, looking for proof that what you say will work actually will deliver. They are willing to invest in smart ideas that drive revenue growth but will be reluctant to invest in crazy, unproven ideas. They want “no surprises” from their marketing leaders because they are responsible for delivering the expected profit for the business. Whether it is good news or bad news, finance people need to know as soon as possible so they can manage the impact. To be a successful partner with finance, you need to show up as organized and on top of your business.  

Your product development team wants you to be willing to explore ideas. Similar to how you might view creative advertising, you need product innovation to be both smart and different when your natural bias is to find ideas that are smart and similar. While you need to make sure your R&D people stay on strategy, you also need to leave room for the invention that drives innovation beyond what you could come up with on your own.  

As you can see with these examples, you must be a chameleon brand leader. Yes, be true to who you are, but have to show up flexible enough to meet the needs of each of the experts you work with. You will fail if you show up with one style hoping everyone is aligned to your brand objectives.

4. Bring a consistent and predictable style

People all over the company want to know who you are. They want to know what motivates you, how you motivate others, how you handle conflict, and how you make decisions. The good behavior is easy, but there will be conflict, and they need to know when you are debating, negotiating, or resolving issues—each of those is a very fine line that can only be observed during the conflict.  

Once people know you, they want you to stay consistent, which allows people to approach and predictably engage you, so it is easier for them to do business with you, enabling them to deliver greatness on your brand’s behalf.

It is not whether you are nice, charming, or funny. Show up in a consistent style and predictable mood, who is aware of your impact beyond your team, exhibit leadership under pressure. Be flexible and accommodating to others.    

The four behaviors you need to build your consistent, predictable style: 

  • Be aware of your impact on others within your team and beyond. No matter your level, you will be seen as a leader, as you are the one who makes decisions based on each subject matter expert’s recommendation. 
  • Exhibit leadership under the four most significant pressure points, whether it is the pressure to deliver business results, the ambiguity of unknown situations or solutions, what happens when there is a dramatic change, and the pressure to meet deadlines. Each type of pressure impacts how you exhibit your leadership personality. It is easy to be a great leader when things are going great, but what happens when things don’t go well. Recognize what each type of pressure does to your style, take on that pressure, and work to show up in a consistent, predictable way. 
  • Strive to stay consistent in how you show up to others. Your experts will always present their views to you, and you will be expected to decide. How you show up to them will impact how honest they are with you, and how they will respect and support your decision.  
  • Be the flexible leader who admits mistakes and challenges yourself. While people want you to be predictable and consistent, they also want to see you grow as a leader and adjust to new ways. Never look like you are stuck in your ways, unwilling to adjust to people or situations. 

5. Run your business like an owner

No matter your level, you should run the business like you are the owner. You are accountable to both the long-term brand health and the show-term profit performance results of the brand. The worst marketers make decisions and engage in activities for selfish and personal reasons, designed to bolster their resume. 

When you bring the mindset of an owner, it forces you to think clearly, to balance everything and everyone, before you make your decision. Forget all the vanity metrics and awards. You have a business to run, and you need to keep your eye on the profit delivery.

The four behaviors you need that exhibits brand ownership: 

  • Act like the brand CEO, sitting at the center of the spoke of the company, surrounded by functional leadership who provide advice based on their expertise, with you inspiring, questioning, listening, and then serving as the ultimate decision-maker  
  • Make smart, selfless decisions that hold everyone and themselves accountable to balance the long-range and short-term health and profit, not for the pure benefit of your career or personal wealth. If you have purpose-driven reasons beyond profit, that’s great, but profit helps you deliver those purpose-driven reasons beyond your wildest expectations. 
  • Make the purposeful, smart choices that are good for the company, consumers, customers, market, and society at large.
  • Live and breathe the culture of those who work behind the scenes of the brand. Your people will be watching your every move, and to bring the values, beliefs, and behaviors to life, you serve as the ultimate role model.

Use our tool to find your purpose

Bring a purpose to your leadership to connect with both employees and consumers, as you help define your brand soul. 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. Translating this idea over to the brand leader, I want you to find the intersection of these four elements: 

  • Does it fit with what consumers need or want?
  • Does it deliver your passion for loving what you do? 
  • Does it fit the core values of your team?
  • 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. The decisions you make should benefit the brand, consumers, customers, marketplace, and society. As the leader, live and breathe the culture of those who work behind the scenes of the brand.  

Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

Marketing training Video
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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. 

How to successfully create brand link with your advertising

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The best brand link comes when you connect your brand closer to the climax of the ad’s story. You should view your brand through the eyes of your consumer, resonate with vulnerable consumer insights, make your brand central to the story, and then own it. The highest brand link scores occur when your brand is not just part of the story, but it is the driver of the story itself. There are a couple of myths about what makes strong brand link scores I would like to challenge.

When judging advertising, the most important thing I look for is to ensure the creative idea within the ad that drives the attention, tells the brand story, communicates the main benefit and sticks in the consumer’s mind. When you see a story, device, copy, or a visual that does not fit with the delivery, then you have a red flag. You run the risk that the creativity of the ad works against your objectives. 

 

The ABC's of Advertising: Attention, brand link, communication stickiness

Here are four questions to ask:

  • Is it the creative idea that earns the consumer’s attention for the ad?
  • Then ask, is the creative idea helping to drive maximum brand involvement?
  • Is the creative idea setting up the communication of the main consumer benefit?
  • And, is the creative idea memorable enough to stick in the consumer’s mind and move them to purchase?

The first brand link myth I hear: “Make sure the brand name shows up in the first few seconds of your TV ad.”

The Milward Brown advertising tracking data shows brand linkage is not related to the time at which the brand name first appears in an ad. 

  • Looking at data in the chart, the dotted line at approximately 40% represents the average brand link of all the ads in the Milward Brown database. 
  • The specific dots represent the time during a 30-second TV ad when the brand first shows up. The timeline for the ad is at the bottom of the chart. 
  • What you can see is a reasonably even distribution above and below the average brand link at most times during the ad. 
  • Even for those ads where the brand shows up in the first few seconds have a 50/50 chance of scoring above the brand link average, which is the same success rate when the brand shows up for the first time at the 25-second mark.

The second brand link myth I hear is, “The more often you show the brand, the higher brand link scores.”

Looking at the Milward Brown chart, it shows no relationship between how often the brand appears in the ad and the resulting brand linkage. 

  • The data looks at four choices for the frequency of the brand showing up in the ad, including none, continuous, at key parts, or only at the end. 
  • What you can see is a reasonably even distribution above and below the average brand link regardless of how often the brand name is shown.  
  • Even for those ads where the brand shows up at the end generate a similar brand link as those that show up continuously throughout the ad. 

Just like the first myth, there is no correlation between how many times the      brand name shows up and how strong your brand link score will be.

The four ways you will drive more brand link

  1. Make your brand a central part of the story
  2. Resonate with meaningful consumer insights
  3. View the brand through the eyes of your consumer
  4. Own the story of the brand

1. Make your brand a central part of the story

From my experience, it is not how much branding you use, but preferably how closely connected the reveal of the brand is linked with the climax of your ad.

Got Milk

“Got milk?” launched a hilarious and engaging storytelling ad with an elaborate tale of an Alexander Hamilton expert. He finds himself on a radio show, ready to answer an easy trivia question about Alexander Hamilton. However, after taking a big bite of his peanut butter sandwich, as he is about to answer, he realizes he is out of milk. With an elaborate story, the reveal of the brand comes at the climax of the story. The “Got milk?” campaign lasted over 20 years.

Got Milk created a very distinctive and incongruent campaign with a milk stain on the lips of celebrities. These ads stood out from the clutter by being so different from what your consumers expect or from what they are watching at the moment. The milk boards ran these distinctive ads for decades, giving them an amazing device to drive brand link. 

Levi's

Levis Jeans were the must have product of the 1980s and early 1900s. As they launched their button fly version of the jeans, they created a very telling story of a woman provocatively doing up her jeans right in front of a blind man…inches away…

KitKat out-of-home ad

With any impulse brand, using point of craving type advertising can be very powerful. This chocolate bench creates an amazing amount of temptation for KitKat. 

2. Resonate with meaningful consumer insights

Tell compelling human-interest story that connect as the ad shows how consumers see themselves, closely linking your brand to the insight.

Always: #LikeAGirl

The Always “Like a girl” campaign connects with true insight about the perception of how girls run changes as they hit puberty. The ad asks older teens and 20-somethings to run like a girl, and they depict a negative stereotypical overly feminine running style. Then, it asks 10-year-old girls to run like a girl, and they run in a highly athletic manner. It asks what changes to make the older girls see running as a negative. 

The ad challenges viewers to rethink their stereotypes. It inspires girls with an uplifting message to be themselves and encourages them to believe that, “running like a girl” is a good thing. Always closely uses insights about changes happening at puberty, just as moms and daughters will be choosing a feminine hygiene brand.  

Toyota Swaggerwagon

Toyota Swaggerwagon ad brings parent insights into their rap song, poking fun at parents who still think they are cool. This ad will connect with any parent who remembers what it was like to be cool.

Ariel (India)

The Ariel brand (P&G) in India took a stand on how working women are running the house and working full time. The story is told through the eyes of the woman’s father, who sees what his daughter is going through, and feels guilty for how he treated his own marriage.  

3. View the brand through the eyes of your consumer 

Use emotional stories to demonstrate how the consumer engages your brand.

Google "Paris"

Using only Google searches, this Super Bowl Ad tells the story of an American student who goes to Paris, meets a girl, maintains a long distance relationship, gets married, lands a job in Paris and then has a baby. Every part of the story is told with Google searches that surprise the consumer, as they follow the story. The ad shows how much we can use Google for anything we need in life.

Ikea "Lamp"

The Ikea lamp ad has a very engaging message that projects Ikea’s furniture as disposable, which is a very honest view of how consumers see Ikea.

4. Own the story of the brand

Make sure to tell the story of the brand, amplifying what sets you apart from anyone else. Create a strong visual cue, that you can build over time, big enough to repeat, and repeat and repeat.

Absolut Vodka

As Absolut Vodka entered the global market, they had created such a simple, beautiful and pure package, and then built a 40-year-old ad campaign around their bottle. The visual has become an icon that immediately screams Absolut!

McDonald's Big Mac

A great example of a high brand link is the McDonald’s Big Mac jingle with a descriptive “Two all beef patties…” song about the brand. It broke through and remains stuck in the consumer’s mind.

The Marlboro Man

One of the greatest icons in advertising history is The Marlboro Man which enabled Phillip Morris to reposition filtered cigarettes from a woman’s cigarette to one that a man would use. 

Ads that brand link

Read how to create attention through your advertising

Read about how to advertising that sticks in the minds of consumers

Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

Marketing training Video
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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. 

Apple finds a creative spirit in staying home. Facebook makes it seem sad.

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The discussion around tone in advertising makes for an interesting debate. Even more fascinating is to see two brands take on the staying home advertising message with two completely different tones. Apple’s ‘stay at home’ advertising finds a creative spark. Facebook’s ad makes staying at home seem so lonely and sad. I think I would have liked Facebook’s ad more if I didn’t see Apple’s encouraging ad. 

When dealing with tone in your ads, it can feel a bit like trying to describe company culture. It is hard to explain what you want, but when you feel it working perfectly, you know you have nailed it. And, when the tone feels like it is not working, man, does it suck the life right out of you. 

I believe in finding your cluster of emotional benefits first and letting those guide the tone of your creative execution. 

Apple's 'stay at home' ad

Apple’s ‘stay at home’ ad starts with 10 seconds of isolation shots, and then quickly moves into full-on creative energy, celebrating the human spirit that we see shining through. We see kids playing chess, music, yoga, dance makeup, and art. The final message of “creativity goes on” feels uplifting and positive. Apple’s stay at home message energizes me to keep going.  

Facebook's staying at home ad

While Apple had 10 seconds of isolation, Facebook stay at home ad stretches the problem of isolation out to 45 seconds. It feels very dark. Problem/solution is a classic advertising technique, but I have always believed you should not overkill on the problem. Especially in our current situation when we already know the problem without having the see it again. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still a good spot. Even as the ad shifts to happier people, I still feel a bit of sorrow. Whereas Apple made it seem like the creative spirit is the hero, Facebook is trying to set itself up as the hero or at least the enabler to your happiness. Perhaps after a month of staying at home, I’m now looking for more of a pick-me-up energizing message to keep me going. Have a look:  

Try using our emotional cheat sheet to find the right emotional space for your brand

I see too many brands with the same tone and manner on their brief. Half the briefs I see contain “smart, trusted, reliable and friendly” as the tone. It has almost become clichés without thought. Go grab your brief and see if you have the same cliche word choices. 

Let’s try to do a quick assessment of where Apple and Facebook should land with their emotions. 

Using our emotional benefit cheatsheet below, I would place Apple in the “sense of optimism” with a sense of “feeling free” space. If that were right, then I think Apple’s stay home message nails the tone. 

Where Facebook should play on the emotional cheat sheet is in the “feeling liked” and “getting noticed” space. Being connected with friends at a time like this should be what Facebook is all about. Coming back to Facebook’s stay at home ad, the visuals of the ad work, but the spot feels dragged down by a darker audio track. That music is great, but it might fit better with a spot that salutes our front line heroes instead of a message trying to encourage us to stay home. 

The right tone matters to a spot.

To explore a little bit more on how to find the right emotional and functional benefits, click on this hyperlink

Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

Marketing training Video
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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. 

How marketers can manage their stress level during the coronavirus

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

If you don’t like stress, do not choose a career in marketing. At some point, the stress can eat you alive. This coronavirus crisis is likely the most stressful time in anyone’s life. I spent 20 years in marketing and no matter what level, stress was part of the job. 

The most significant stress for any marketer is managing through the ambiguity of the unknown. The impact of the Coronavirus will cause the most ambiguity we have ever felt. Working against ambiguity is the stress of hitting deadlines, which required a degree of certainty. On top of that, if you are in a situation where the sales are falling off dramatically, it might scare you. While we are all making cute memes about Zoom and Skype calls, the distance from your trusted experts can heighten the conflict. Finally, it would help if you still managed your personal life and your career. 

Managing the ambiguity of the situation

At the best of times, ambiguity is one of the hardest stress points for marketers. Some can handle it, but for many, the stress of ambiguity can chew you up and spit you out. 

During this coronavirus crisis, the world’s greatest scientists can’t tell you when the work stoppage will end, but your finance person expects you to tell them various scenarios related to sales forecasts, your marketing spend and e-commerce.

With marketing, there is no right or wrong answer, but there is the best answer that will either work or will not work. Avoid perfect answers, but try to get to the best answers. Get used to saying, “I don’t know” more than usual. And, try to turn every issue you get into a question for your experts around you until you feel getting closer to a better answer. 

The fundamentals always matter

Always reach for fundamentals, using your deep thinking, and trust your instinct to make the smartest choice. Realize it is your “best guess” but stop using the words “best guess” when delivering your answer. 

As a leader, persistence, patience, and composure helps you sort through the stress. The consequence of not remaining composed is that your behavior will create a scared team, and it risks them choosing quick decisions that lead to the wrong results. 

The consequence of stress is terrible decision-making. So take your time, slow down your thinking, map out decision trees, use tools to help you support your instincts. Also, make a decision. Most marketers faced with A or B, try to find a way to choose both, but that depletes your limited resources by spreading them against two options. You have to focus your limited resources on those solutions that will bounce back with the best results. 

Asking questions

  1. Who are your best customers? These are the customers who will likely stick with you out of habit, necessity, or loyalty. You need to keep these customers. Not with some lame email or cutesy ad, but what can you do to help genuinely. McDonald’s is selling milk and bread at drive-thrus, and State Farm is returning money to customers because lower driving means fewer accidents. What can you do to help your best customers to keep them engaged now so that they stay with you during the crisis and long after?
  2. What does your brand stand for? Reach for your brand positioning to understand the functional and emotional benefits that your brand stands for. Now will be a time when you want the less randomized message and more consistent messages. People will want to try new things, and you need to make sure those new ideas fit. Dove nailed their “real beauty” ad to salute healthcare workers because it was perfectly on-brand.  
  3. What are the best ideas for dealing with the current situation, the short-term and the longer term? When dealing with your finance people, you need to divide your thinking into three simple buckets: 
  • What to do during the Coronavirus shutdown
  • How to kickstart the brand once the economy starts back up
  • How to drive growth once things seem normal again

The stress of time pressure

Time pressure works in the opposite direction of ambiguity. People will want answers now, but without reveling in a degree of ambiguity with a bit of soaking time, to let the answer come to you, you risk picking the answer right in front of you. 

Stay calm, so you continue to make the right decisions. When you stay cool in the face of deadlines, you can use those time constraints to get everyone focused on fundamentally sound solutions. Time can focus your team, as long as you stay cool. When you get overly stressed, everyone around you will feel your stress, and they freeze. 

Watching the uncertaity of the sales results can be scary

 

Regardless of what growth rates your business is facing, you will be stressed. With the coronavirus, some brands have completely fallen apart (restaurants/tourism/retailers), while others are seeing their highest growth they have ever seen (toilet paper, items for cooking at home, or Zoom). While we all wish we were in the high growth space, all cause stress. 

  • When your sales results have fallen completely, that will scare you and everyone around you. People will be worried about their jobs. 
  • If your brand has been thinking of shifting to more e-commerce, the new skills needed could scare the team. And, the panic of not seeing those early results could cause everyone to doubt you. 
  • When you are growing more than ever, if you are a grocery brand, you might be growing, but that growth will still cause stress on the system.

The key to making sure you can hit your results is to make smart, reasonable projections. It would be best if you always were doing regular deep-dive analysis to ensure you know what’s going on and can summarize the key issues. 

When faced with struggling results, reach for your logic as you re-group. Force yourself to course correct, rather than continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat. 

As the leader, putting a time frame on how long it might take to turn things around can relieve stress. The problem for you as the leader is you do not know if this will be three months, nine months, or two years. 

Try to find timelines to help manage the stress level of your team by creating bite-size timelines, even if they are fictional. (e.g., For the next three months, we’ll need all hands on deck as we turn around the extra strength business) The focus can help cut the ambiguity. The problem for you is that you cannot keep going back to this for two to three rounds. 

Keep an eye out for burnout on your team. Find small rewards or surprises. An afternoon off, Amazon gift cards, or dinner delivery. Find small ways of keeping your team engaged. It will go a long way. 

Handling conflict from a distance will add to your stress

At every time in your career, relationships can cause you much stress. Organizations have natural conflict points with conflicting priorities. This Coronavirus impact on business is going to amplify every stress point. 

While everyone on your zoom call will say one thing in front of ten people, everyone will be having random side-bar email conversations you won’t be part of. You will need to work extra hard to get a feel of what has been said when you are not on the call. 

For example, you might spend hours with your forecast team on a new sales forecast. You feel great only to find out finance had a side-bar conversation with your supply chain person and told them to cut safety stock in half. You didn’t know. 

For most marketers, the sales team can be one of your most significant stress points. Many salespeople focus on trying to close any short-term gaps while you try to drive the longer-term health of your brand. As a result, they will be feeling more stressed than you. Be pro-active in making the first move to maintaining relationships with your salespeople. Listen to understand and reach for common ground, which most times is not that far away. Have regular touchpoints, to hear them out.

The other conflict to manage is with your ad agency. Every cut you make will create stress for them. You can’t pass them half and expect the same service levels. 

Read our story on how to manage your brand during the Coronavirus

Work-life balance impact on your personal life

During your career, there will be tons of things happening in your personal life that can trickle into your work life: you could be getting married, buying a house, and having kids. Or it could be negatives like a breakup, bad investment, or losing a loved one. 

 

I have always believed that work-life balance is essential for marketers. The more we can get away from it all, the better we are when we are back in it. When work infringes on your personal life, you lose that escape. 

 

You have to learn to be able to compartmentalize and almost separate your personal from your professional life. While you shouldn’t take your personal life to work, you can’t take your work-life home. 

 

During this Coronavirus crisis, it will be even harder to escape. With only twelve stairs to work, how do you make sure you can still compartmentalize when at work and when at home. Every buzz on your cell phone connects you back into your job. 

Build your own rules for how you separate work and personal, whether turning your phone off, not working weekends, or having designated personal time (6-9 pm). Find activities that can help you switch from the high pace of work to the relaxed pace of home.

The stress of managing your career hasn't gone away

Your career will never be on hold. The best marketers are ambitious and want to get ahead. It’s a lousy time to be looking for a job, but you still have to have your eyes open.

If you take a few months off from looking for a job, that doesn’t mean you should be taking time off from getting better. While you are stuck at home, it might be the perfect time to engage in self-improvement. Think of your career as three different aspects: skills, behaviors, and experiences. Identify your gaps, and look to close those through your career choices. Below is a list of 20 marketing skills you need to keep working on at any level of your career. 

Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

Marketing training Video
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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. 

How to manage your brand in a Coronavirus world

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

There have been many Coronavirus articles that advocate brands need to keep their spending up during a recession. The problem is that we are not yet in a recession. There are more unknowns than that. We can’t plan, however, because we don’t yet know how long the stay-at-home orders will remain, and that means we don’t yet know how this will impact our brand. What you likely know is that your finance leader has just come up with new scenarios for the year, and you need to make cuts. I have been there many times. 

However, what you don’t know now is how many more rounds of scenarios you will face before you feel comfortable knowing what to do. The reality for the marketer is that we will only be brought into the discussion after the CEO and Finance leader have agreed on the number. The most significant factor in your decision-making during the Coronavirus comes down to TIMING!

1. Your first loyalty has to be for your people

Here come all the arguments that brands should be investing at this time. And, that’s when we realize this is Coronavirus pandemic, not an economic recession. Any charts from the banking crisis of 2008 might be irrelevant. From a financial reality, the overall company expenses in 2020 will be cut, many times by 25% to 50%. My first reaction is, “yes, keep your brand investment strong.” There are 100 years of proof that says brands should invest, not divest. But my second reaction is, “how do we stand up for our people, and do everything we can to minimize layoffs?” 

In 2020, the choice could come down to: 

  • fire people
  • keep advertising

Even as the marketer, I would have a hard time saying “yes, but the charts say we need to keep investing.” Maybe in 2020, the brands that take a stand to keep their people during the Coronavirus crisis will win in 2021 and beyond. People will realize that the brand has a soul. 

On top of that, you must think about managing your talent and keeping the best salespeople, smartest R&D talent, the best supply chain, and the best marketers on your team so that once the economy starts back up, you are ready with the best team possible.

2. Build in as much efficiency as possible

In the first week of the Coronavirus shutdown, every brand seemed to send out a useless and rather annoying “we are there for you” email of re-assurance. The following week, we saw every brand widen their logo to promote social distancing. Now in April, we are getting flooded with salutes to healthcare workers. Every salute to the Coronavirus heroes is nice, but you still need to find a unique message or you will get lost within the clutter. 

Timing is everything. Divide your thinking into three simple buckets: 

  1. What to do during the Coronavirus shutdown
  2. How to kickstart the brand once the economy starts back up
  3. How to drive growth once things seem normal again

The problem with planning is you don’t yet know is how long the shutdown lasts, yet you need enough money remaining in your budget to kickstart the brand once the economy starts back up. 

On top of that, if your revenues remain strong during the coronavirus (e.g., toilet paper), keep spending. If your revenues are completely onhold (e.g., restaurants, tourism), there is no use spending at all. If your revenues have fallen slightly, then use an opportunistic approach, either focusing on your most loyal customers, strongest sales channels, or your strongest regions. 

Prioritize effort over dollars. 

With the pressure to keep people while reducing spend, if you can maintain your presence through the effort of your people rather than media dollars, that would be a smart way. Now would be an ideal time for self-created content and social media sharing to keep your brand engaged. 

Before you take action, here are simple guidelines to follow: 

  • If you have something you can do to help during the Coronavirus, then do it.
  • If you have something you should say, then say it.
  • If you can’t naturally say it or do it, then don’t force it. 

A brand’s action speaks louder than words. Just do it. Try to help your customers. 

 

Look at your budgets 

Start by looking at your brand profit situation for 2020 and how you will deliver the year. It is not just short-term thinking, but the more you can maximize your 2020 profits, the more investment dollars you will have in the longer term. 

One important consideration is to distinguish the working dollars from non-working dollars. I define working dollars as those investments that directly reach and influence the consumer. You can directly see the impact and measure the payback. The non-working dollars include any development, production costs or market research testing costs. While they are essential, you can find efficiencies by reducing or cutting your non-working dollars. 

If you normally spend $1 million on TV production costs, and then spend $20 million in media, during this year, this would be an time to your production budget to $200,000. If you want to save on production completely, look in your vault for the best ad from the last five years and air that spot. Consumers are likely more willing to forgive production values. I noticed the recent Dove or Budweiser TV ads used still photography and worked great. 

 

Media as a business investment to showcases your brand story through creative execution and get consumers to engage, listen, think, feel, and act in ways that pay back your brand. In terms of eyeballs are eyeballs, rather than completely cut spend, get your agency to play with the splits for daytime vs prime. Can you lower that $20 million down to $15 million without impacting your brand’s mental availability? 

Now the $21 million spend becomes $15.2 million, and hopefully minimal short-term impact.

 

Here’s a link to our article for figuring out your media budget

How to determine the size of your brand’s media budget

 

3. Use your time wisely during the Coronavirus shutdown

With less activity on the brand, now would be a great time to conduct a deep-dive business review on your brand. Dig in on the five specific sections—marketplace, consumers, channels, competitors and the brand—to draw out conclusions to help set up your brand’s key issues, which you answer in the brand plan.

Marketplace: 

  • Start by looking at the overall category performance to gain a macro view of all significant issues. Dig in on the factors impacting category growth, including economic indicators, consumer behavior, technology changes, shopper trends, and political regulations. Also look at what is happening in related categories, which could impact your category or replicate what you may see next.


Consumers: 

  • Analyze your consumer target to better understand the consumer’s underlying beliefs, buying habits, growth trends, and critical insights. Use the brand funnel analysis and leaky bucket analysis to uncover how they shop and how they make purchase decisions. Try to understand what they think when they buy or reject your brand at every stage of the consumer’s purchase journey. Uncover consumer perceptions through tracking data, the voice of the consumer, and market research.

Channels: 

  • Assess the performance of all potential distribution channels and the performance of every major retail customer. Understand their strategies, and how well your brand is using their available tools and programs. Your brand must align with your retail customer strategies.

Competitors: 

  • Dissect your closest competitors by looking at their performance indicators, brand positioning, innovation pipeline, pricing strategies, distribution, and the consumer’s perceptions of these brands. To go even deeper, you can map out a strategic brand plan for significant competitors to predict what they might do next. Use that knowledge within your brand plan.

Brand: 

  • Analyze your brand through the lens of consumers, customers, competitors, and employees. Use brand funnel data, market research, marketing program tracking results, pricing analysis, distribution gaps, and financial analysis. Focus on managing your brand’s health and wealth.

Summarize your analysis to set up the key issues to tackle in your brand plan:

What’s driving growth? 

  • The top factors of strength, positional power, or market inertia, which have a proven link to driving your brand’s growth. Your plan should continue to fuel these growth drivers.

What’s inhibiting growth? 

  • The most significant factors of weakness, unaddressed gaps, or market friction you can prove to be holding back your brand’s growth. Your plan should focus on reducing or reversing these inhibitors to growth. 

Opportunities for growth

  • Look at specific untapped areas in the market, which could fuel your brand’s future growth, based on unfulfilled consumer needs, new technologies on the horizon, potential regulation changes, new distribution channels, or the removal of trade barriers. Your plan should take advantage of these opportunities in the future. 

Threats to future growth

  • Changing circumstances, including consumer needs, new technologies, competitive activity, distribution changes, or potential barriers, which create potential risks to your brand’s growth. Build your plan to minimize the impact of these risks.

Read our story on how to manage your stress during the Coronavirus

Dove's tribute to our beautiful healthcare heroes who are on the frontlines saving lives during the Coronavirus pandemic

Budweiser's tribute ad

Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

Marketing training Video
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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. 

Dove uses “real beauty” platform to salute our healthcare heroes.

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

With the latest tribute ad by Dove, I lasted only ten seconds before feeling overwhelmed by the photography of our beautiful healthcare workers, whose faces showed the strains of the front line during the Coronavirus. 

Building off Dove’s “real beauty” brand idea, the ad shows the real faces, visibly worn out by a long shift, with the indents of where their face masks had been. The work comes from Ogilvy’s Toronto office, where Dove’s “Evolution” ad campaign originated. I still rate Dove’s “Evolution” as one of the century’s most impactful ads.

We are starting to see a plethora of tribute ads coming out to our healthcare heroes. Most will be average. But the best of the best need to create enough magic to bring a tear to our eye.

Dove's tribute to our beautiful healthcare heroes who are on the frontlines saving lives during the Coronavirus pandemic

Dove's original "real beauty" ad

With the “real beauty” campaign, Dove stood up for real women. The women we see up on the runway are size 2, 103 pounds, and likely 17. Movie stars have had plastic surgery. Most print ads, even with the most beautiful women, have been photo-shopped. There are real problems in our current society with anorexia, anxiety, and depression about appearance. Dove’s insight of “Women in all shapes, sizes look beautiful. Let’s stop idolizing the fake and start living in the real world. Let’s be happy with what we look like.” Women connected with this insight because they already felt that way. They were glad someone was finally saying it.

Budweiser's tribute to our healthcare heroes

Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

Marketing training Video
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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.