The eight principles of analytical thinking for brand leaders

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The analytical brand leader wins through insight. I want to show you the principles of smart analytical thinking, so you can dig deep and draw out conclusions to help set up your brand’s key issues, to steer the strategic brand plan. 

Your analysis should start with a hypothesis, then gather data to use facts to solidify or refute your opinion. Make sure you use multiple data sources, to draw out comparisons over absolutes to find data breaks that help bring an analytical story to life. Use summary tools to consolidate and organize your thinking to build-out recommendations that can convince management and steer the team. You owe your brand a deep-dive business review at least once a year. Otherwise, you are negligent about your brand. You owe your brand a deep-dive business review at least once a year. Otherwise, you are being negligent to your brand.  

analysis

When you operate only at the surface level, you miss out on what’s going on beneath your instinctual observations. To go deep, you need to look at everything, including the category you play in, the consumers you serve, the distribution channels you sell through, your main competitors, and the underlying health of your brand. The deep-dive business review should kick-off your brand planning process, ensuring your plans are addressing the right issues and that you have the knowledge to make informed decisions on your brand. 

Moreover, you owe your brand a monthly report to track how the business is doing throughout the year. While these reports may feel tedious to write, the 3-4 hours it takes to dig in is a great discipline to help you maintain the touch-feel of managing the business results of the brand. As you go through the process every month, it is a great way to improve your analytical skills. 

The eight principles of analytical thinking

Start with a hypothesis

You don’t start with the facts; you start with a conclusion based on your instincts of knowing your business. Then, gather the facts to solidify, change, or refute your conclusion. 

Try to get your head out of the day-to-day grind and think about the significant issues getting in your way. Start any analytic process with five questions that answer where do you want to be, where you are now, why are you here, how can we get there, and what do we need to do. These questions provide a summary of any strategic plan with a vision, analysis, key issues, strategies, and tactics. Your analytics should start with a hypothesis that zeroes in on two of these questions to answer where your brand is today, and why it is there. 

Use our four questions of our Strategic ThinkBox and assess how your brand’s core strength is showing up in the marketplace, signs of how tight your relationship is with consumers, how well you are battling competitors and what is your brand’s situation. To assess the situation, you can think about the factors currently driving and inhibiting your brand’s growth, and then lay out the future threats and untapped opportunities.

Take it all in and narrow down to a hypothesis of what you think are the three significant issues that explain your brand’s situation. 

Gather relevant data

An in-depth analysis requires slower thinking time, so you don’t misjudge the situation. The best Brand Leaders know when to be a strategic thinker and when to be an action thinker. Strategic thinkers see “what if” questions before seeing solutions, mapping out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They take time to reflect and plan before acting, helping you move in a focused, efficient fashion. They think slowly, logically, always needing options, but if you go too slow, you will miss the opportunity window. An excellent tool to get you thinking in terms of questions: 

  1. What do you know? Forces you to be fact-based, and you know it for sure.
  2. What can you assume? Use your knowledge to draw conclusions that bridge between fact and speculation.
  3. What do you think? Based on facts and assumptions, you should be able to say what we think will happen.
  4. What do you need to find out? There could be unknowns still.
  5. What are you going to do? It is the action that comes out of this thinking.

This type of thinking will set you up for what data you should be looking to fill the gaps in your argument.

Sources of brand data to dig into

As the brand leader, you should always be tracking your market share trends over the last five years, last 12 months, last 12 weeks, and then broken out by segment, size, flavors. Create brand development scores that index your brand’s performance that is broken out by the business, customer type, markets, or regions. 

You should track your brand funnel data regularly, looking at awareness, consideration, search, trial, purchase, usage, repeat, loyal, comparing the funnel scores to prior periods and competitors. You should know your consumer purchase behavior, looking at penetration, usage frequency, and share of requirements. When it comes to program tracking, look at aided, unaided awareness, brand link, message recall, and purchase intention scores. The gaps you find with this type of data set up issues to use in your brand plans.

You also have to know the profitability of your brand, identifying the 5-year compound annual growth rates (CAGR) gross margins, cost of goods, consumer and trade spend, and your net margin.

Our Beloved Brands playbook and B2B Brands playbook go into depth on how to use these types of analytical tools to lead your deep-dive review on your business.

Build your argument with multiple sources

Avoid taking one piece of data and making it the basis of your entire brand strategy. Make sure you see a real trend that continues over time. Dig around until you can find a convergence of data that leads to an answer. Multiple sources and multiple data points should back every analytical story. 

Ten probing questions to assess your brand’s performance:

  1. What consumer benefit can you win with, which is ownable, unique, and motivating for consumers?
  2. What is your biggest gain versus prior periods? What is your biggest gap?
  3. What is your market share? Regionally? By channel? Where is your strength? Where is your gap?   
  4. How are you performing on key brand tracking data? Penetration? Frequency? Sales per buyer or per trip?  
  5. What are your brand’s scores on the brand funnel?    
  6. How is your program tracking data doing? Where could you improve? 
  7. How far can you “stretch” your brand into other opportunities?  
  8. What is your current operating model?    
  9. What is your culture? Do you have alignment with the brand story and your employees?
  10. What is the innovation process and capability of the organization?

 

Ten financial questions to assess your brand’s worth:

  1. What is your brand’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR)? Explain the ups and downs over the past five years.
  2. What are your gross margins and contribution margins over the last five years? Can you break it out by product line? Is there more pressure from the price or the cost of goods? 
  3. What is your brand’s marketing budget breakout? Variable direct costs versus indirect fixed dollars? What is the break between media and creative production? Consumer spend versus trade spend?   
  4. Have you completed any pricing elasticity studies? What did you learn about your brand? If you did increase your price, what did you see in the marketplace?
  5. How is your brand’s overall strategy impacting your brand’s profits? How do your decisions on your brand’s core strength, consumer connection, competitive pressures, and situation impact your financials?
  6. How are your current brand/business performance metrics, brand’s market goals, and financials linked?
  7. Over the past five years, what are the programs that drive the highest and lowest ROI?
  8. How does your business model impact your overall profit? What are you focusing on right now?
  9. What are your forecasting error rates? Is there a seasonality impact? How do economic factors impact your brand’s financials? How reasonable are your inventory levels?   
  10. What financial pressures do you face on an annual or quarterly basis?   

How to conduct a deep-dive business review to uncover brand issues

Too many marketers are not taking the time to dig in on the analytics. There is no value in having access to data if you are not using it. The best brand leaders can tell strategic stories through analytics.  

    

Conduct a deep-dive business review at least once a year on your brand. Otherwise, you are negligent of the brand, where you are investing all your resources. 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.

Comparisons always beat absolutes

Absolute numbers by themselves are useless. Always find comparisons. Only when given a relative nature to something important do you find the data break that tells a story. Is 50 degrees Fahrenheit warm or cold? If it’s Ottawa Canada and it’s December 24th, it is HOT and front-page news. If it is in Los Angeles on June 5th, it is COLD and front-page news.

Only when given a relative nature to something important do you find the data break that tells a story. You have to ground the data with a comparison, whether that’s versus prior periods, competitors, norms, or the category. 

Every time you talk about data, try to speak in relative terms, comparing it to something that is grounded, whether that is last year, last month, compared to another brand, or versus the norm. Is it up, down or flat? Never give a number without a comparison, or your listener will not have a clue if it is a good number

Look for data breaks that bring the story to life

Comparative indexes and cross tabulations can bring out the data breaks and gaps that can tell a story. Use the “so what” technique to dig around and twist the data in unique ways until you find the point in which the data breaks and clear, meaningful differences start to show. Expose the trend and draw out the conclusion.

Match up facts to your conclusions, to solidify your opinions:

Summarize your analysis

One tool looks at what’s currently driving and inhibiting growth, and what opportunities and threats you see in the future. 

  • 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.

Turn the analysis into a recommendation

Organize your story into an elevator pitch

Organize your data to tell a story to your CEO that answers, “What’s going on with our brand?” I want you to dig in the opposite of how you tell the story.

To start with, assume you are on a 76-floor elevator ride with your CEO, and you have the chance to tell them ten things; what would you say? 

Now narrow your focus, by assuming you are a seven-floor elevator ride; what three things will you tell your CEO?

Finally, you get out of the elevator, and the CEO says, “so what does this all mean?” You now have your conclusion statement.  

Once you have your story, actually start with the conclusion first, followed by your three best analytical points. 

  • Keep an eye on the other seven other points for next year or if things change dramatically.
  • Never tell your CEO anything obvious they already know. Don’t bore or frustrate your CEO.
  • Try to surprise your CEO with a data secret you found out that you need to make sure the CEO knows. 
  • Find a significant change or data break, that has movement.
  • Narrow down to the points that matter to your story. You only get one elevator ride with the CEO. Make the most of it.

How to build the ideal analytical slide

When telling your analytical story through a presentation, start every slide with an analytical conclusion statement as your headline, then have 2-3 key analytical support points for your conclusion. Provide a supporting visual or graph to show the thinking underneath the analysis. Finally, you must include an impact recommendation on every slide. Never tell your management a data point without attaching your conclusion of what to do with that data.

This type of analytical thinking can be found in our playbooks

Learn to think, define, plan, execute and analyze your brand

    • You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
    • To define the brand, I will 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 explore the 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. 
    • 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 creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
    • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices. 
    • When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

 

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your brand. My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential.

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

The career limiting moves that marketers need to avoid

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

To succeed in your Marketing career, you must hit deadlines, know your business, be open with communication, take control of your brand, be able to use feedback, and then listen to the experts around you, before you decide. If you do not nail these behaviors, you will eventually annoy someone enough to get rid of you. You’ve likely heard of CLM’s, also known as “career-limiting-moves.” These six behaviors are non-negotiable CLM’s, and if you miss them continuously, you will be gone. Fix these.

For many Marketers, these could be a blind spot. You could be amazing in all other aspects of your job. And when one of these brings you down, you will be left wondering what happened.  

CLM

1. Miss deadlines

Never look out of control or sloppy. Marketers have enough to do, so if you begin to miss deadlines, things will stockpile on each other. Do not be the one who tries to negotiate extensions continually. That might work with a University essay. But in the real world of Marketing, there are no real extensions;  just missed opportunities. If you miss one, two, or three, your behavior will be viewed as a pattern. I went to school with someone who always asked the prof for a deadline on everything. The professor always said yes. And she thrived in school. Yet, never made it in marketing. In my 20 years in Marketing. I have never asked for an extension. 

2. Don’t know your business

Avoid getting caught off-guard with questions that you cannot answer, such as profit (sales, growth, margins, spend) market share and your sales forecasts. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge. I was lucky in that I grew up a baseball stat geek, so I could easily remember every number on my business. I was never the type of manager who openly tested people for the sake of it. But, when I have 15 brands, and you only have one brand: how do you think if I felt when I knew your numbers better than you did? It is your job to know your business and your numbers.

3. Not open with your communication

There should be no surprises, especially with your boss. Keep everyone aware of what’s going on. If something could go wrong, make sure everyone knows. When you communicate upwards, always have the situation, implications, options, and then quickly followed by an action plan of what to do with it. And when something does go wrong, have a plan ready in place, action items laid out, before your boss says, “We need a plan.”

4. Fail to take control of your destiny

Act like the owner. The best Marketers run the brands; they never let the brands run us. Always be slightly ahead of the game, not constantly chasing your work to completion. Once you are chasing, you can never catch up. You show up begging for help. When you are in charge of a brand, and know the answer, teach yourself to speak in a “telling way.” Once you are given the reigns of a brand, it is expected that you tell everyone what to do. As your boss, I would rather that I have to step in and push back on something, rather than to have to encourage you to voice your thoughts. 

5. Ignore feedback for growth

Always seek out and accept feedback, good or bad, as a lesson for you. Do not think of it as a personal attack or setback. Identify gaps you can close, never think of them as weaknesses that hold you back. It would be best if you always were striving to get better. It is true; the best marketers are ambitious. They want to get better. It is perfectly acceptable not to enjoy getting negative feedback. I would never judge someone’s reaction at that moment.

I have worked with many amazing marketers, who looked devastated and ready to quit, in the heat of the feedback. I have seen that look 100 times. That is perfectly fine. However, I also know, those same great people came in the next morning, ready to make a change and ready to demonstrate it to everyone who was watching. Marketing is an iterative career. Honestly, we repeat the same 20 key skills over and over again, at junior, mid and senior levels. The best gets better each time. The worst don’t. 

6. Make decisions without listening to your experts

There is a somewhat bizarre relationship Marketers have with subject matter experts. We don’t really do anything. We don’t make the product, sell the product, make the ads, buy the media or make the event happen. But as the ultimate generalist, we do decide everything. 

Very early in your career, you must figure out the magic in using your subject matter experts to teach you everything you need to know about your job, while still leading them, even if they are 10 or 20 years older than you. These subject matter experts have seen hundreds of marketers come through the door, and if you do it right, they will quietly teach you more than your boss ever will.

As you hit the director or VP level, you must figure out how to use these same subject matter experts as an advisor or sounding board to the toughest of issues or what you think are great ideas. Subject matter experts don’t want to make decisions. They want you to do that. Subject matter experts don’t want to be a leader. They want you to lead them. 

At these senior levels, you have to learn to listen to them and make sure you really hear them out. You can question and challenge them. And, then it is expected that you will give the direction that pushes them towards the end goal. While you make every decision, if you don’t manage this unique relationship well, they will influence the decision to get rid of you.

The leader behaviors of the best brand leaders

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.

  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. 

I wrote my Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks to help marketers reach their full potential

Learn to think, define, plan, execute and analyze your brand

  • You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  • To define the brand, I will 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 explore the 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. 
  • 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 creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices. 
  • When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

 

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your brand. My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential.

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

The marketing skills you need for success

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

There are marketing skills, behaviors and experiences you must collect throughout your marketing career. While many will show up naturally in your career, it is possible for you to end up with specific gaps due to specific jobs you have along the way. This is a great opportunity to assess where you stand and which gaps you need to address. 

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

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

Marketing Skills you need

I have broken each of these five marketing skill areas into 20 overall marketing skills you need to be a successful brand leader. In our Beloved Brands playbook and B2B Brands playbook, we provide every tool you will ever need to know so you can run your brand and achieve your full potential.

As a brand leader, you must have these 20 skills to think, define, plan, inspire and analyze

1. Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is a skill you need to go beyond the manager level. Too many marketers are so busy that they do not even have time to think. The best brand leaders do the necessary critical strategic thinking to find ways to win in the market. Strategic thinking is an essential foundation, forcing marketers to ask big questions that challenge and focus brand decisions.

There are four ways to enhance your strategic thinking, using the brand’s core strength finder, consumer strategy, competitive strategy, and situational strategy. 

As you frame your strategies, learn to think and then talk in a way that lays out the vision for your brand, focuses your limited resources on breakthrough points, takes advantage of opportunities you see in the market, finds early wins to leverage to give your brand a positional power to drive growth and profits for your brand.

 

The four strategic thinking skills you need:

  1. Ask the right interrupting and challenging questions to help slow your brain down to a reflection speed. Make sure you understand the issues surrounding the brand before you reach for solutions
  2. Take a 360-degree strategic view by looking at your brand’s core strength, how consumers engage, the stance your competitors are taking, and the current business situation you face
  3. Able to lead a well-thought strategic debate across the organization. Ensure sales, operations, product development, and senior leaders have their say.
  4. Make smart strategic decisions that map out a vision, focuses the brand’s limited resources, takes advantage of an opportunity, gains an early win that can be leveraged to drive added power or profits.

 

Our Beloved Brands and B2B Brands books will enhance your strategic thinking

Use our playbooks to engage our ThinkBox 360-degree strategic thinking model with specific chapters that help you engage your brand’s core strength, consumer strategy, competitive strategy, and situation you face. We show you how to build everything around your brand’s core strength with examples of brands that focus on their product, story, experience, or price. We explain how our brand love curve helps you think about ways to tighten your brand’s bond with your consumers, with specific game plans for brands at each stage of the brand love curve, whether your brand is at the unknown, indifferent, like it, love it or beloved stage. We show you how to think strategically about the competitive battles you face, whether your brand is a power player, challenger, disruptor, or craft brand. Finally, you should always think strategically within your brand’s current situation to show how each requires a different strategy and leadership style. 

2. Brand Positioning

Too many marketers are trying to be everything to anyone. This strategy is the usual recipe for becoming nothing to everyone. The best brand leaders know how to define their brand. They start by targeting a specific motivated consumer audience and then define their brand around a brand idea that is interesting, simple, unique, motivating, and ownable. 

You have to know the fundamental ways for how to write a winning brand positioning statement with four essential elements: target market, competitive set, main benefit, and reason to believe (RTB). Learn how to build a brand idea that leads every touchpoint of your brand, including the brand promise, brand story, innovation, purchase moment, and experience. And finally, you have to know the tools for how to write a winning brand concept and brand story. 

 

The four brand positioning skills you need:

  1. Define your ideal consumer target. Build out consumer profiles framed with need states, consumer insights, enemies, and the desired response.
  2. Take a consumer-centric mindset to turn brand features (what you do) into functional benefits (what consumers get) and emotional benefits (how it makes them feel)
  3. Find a winning brand positioning statement that is own-able for your brand and motivates consumers to build a tighter bond with the brand.
  4. Develop a brand idea that is interesting, simple, unique, inspiring, motivating, and ownable. You must be able to stretch that brand idea across every consumer touchpoint, including the brand promise, story, innovation, purchase moment, and consumer experience.
 

Use our Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks will help improve your brand positioning skills

We believe brand positioning statements starts with defining your target market. You will learn how to define your consumer insights, enemies, and need states. You will have access to our consumer benefits ladder tool to help you build your brand around consumer benefits. You can use our functional benefit cheat sheet and emotional benefit cheat sheet to help you narrow down your choices to focus on those benefits that are motivating to consumers and ownable for your brand. You will learn to complete the brand positioning statement with brand support points and claims. 

Once you have your brand positioning statement, we take you through step-by-step processes to build out your brand idea, brand concept statement, and brand story.

3. Brand Plans

Too many marketers focus on a short-term to-do list, not a long-term plan. The best brand leaders write brand plans that everyone in the organization can follow with ease, including senior management, sales, R&D, agencies, and operational teams. You have to know how to write each element of the brand plan, including the brand vision, purpose, values, goals, key Issues, strategies, and tactics. You must be able to build execution plans, including a brand communications plan, an innovation plan, and an in-store plan.

 

The four brand planning skills you need:

  1. Lead the development of all elements of a smart brand plan; creating a plan a vision, purpose, goals, issues, strategies, and tactics.
  2. Know how to turn strategic thinking into smart strategic objective statements that can stand as the foundation of the brand plan
  3. Able to use the brand plan presentation to convince senior management to follow the issues and strategies you lay out and garner the necessary support across the organization.
  4. Develop smart execution plans that deliver against the brand strategies and steer each execution team to stay on strategy.
 

Our Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks outline how to write brand plans 

Our planning chapters start with our five strategic questions tool that acts as an outline for your entire plan. We believe every plan should start with an inspirational brand vision statement that frames your entire brand plan. You will be challenged with some tools and examples to write your vision, purpose, and values. From your analytics chapter, you can use our summary tools of your brand’s situation analysis. I will show you how to map out the key issues your brand faces and then write smart brand objective strategy statements. To set up the marketing execution, you will learn to write specific execution plans for brand communications, innovation, and in-store. You can use our ideal one-page brand formats for the annual brand plan and long-range strategic roadmap.

4. Marketing execution

Too many marketers are becoming task-masters and stepping over the line into execution. The best brand leaders need to inspire experts to produce smart and creative execution. You need tools and techniques for judging and making decisions on creative advertising from your agency.  For judging execution, I use the ABC’s tool, believing the best executions must drive Attention (A), Brand link (B), Communication (C), and Stickiness (S). I also have a checklist for you to use when judging executions. One crucial skill is being able to give direction to your agency to inspire and challenge great execution.

 

The four marketing execution skills you need:

  1. Write strategic, focused, and thorough creative briefs that will inspire great work from those experts who will execute on your brand’s behalf.
  2. Capable of leading all marketing projects, whether they are on brand communication, innovation, selling, or experience.
  3. Able to inspire greatness from experts at agencies or throughout the organization to offer their greatest work on your brand.
  4. Makes smart marketing execution decisions that will help tighten the bond with consumers, but the brand into a more powerful position and drive long-term success that matches up tot he strategy.

 

 

Our Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks will challenge new thinking and skills

I want you to understand the crucial role of the brand leader in getting great creative execution. Be the brand leader who can successfully manage the stages of the advertising process. 

You can learn to transform your brand communications plan into a creative brief, with a chapter that goes through each line of the creative brief with examples of the smartest and worst. 

You will learn how to make decisions at the creative meeting, using our instincts checklist with our ABC’s advertising decision-making tool at the core. Challenge yourself to give inspiring feedback on advertising that pushes for great work. Build your media planning with six media questions and line up media choices to where consumers are most willing to engage with your brand.

5. Analyze performance

Too few marketers take the time to dig into the analytics. There is no value in having access to data if you are not using it to discover meaningful insights. The best brand leaders can tell strategic stories through analytics. You need to know how to create a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumers, competitors, channels, and brand. And, you need to be able to turn your analysis into a written report or a presentation for management. You need to know brand finance, to know every financial formula you need to run your brand.

 

The four analytical skills you need:

  1. Understand all the potential sources of brand data you can use to evaluate the situation. These include market share, consumption, shipment data, brand funnel, advertising tracking, market research studies, and financial statements.
  2. Know how to dig deep into data, using draws comparisons and development indexes to find the data breaks. Draw out insights and conclusions that you can turn into a story to help your team debate and make decisions.
  3. Able to lead a best-in-class 360-degree deep-dive business review for the brand that looks at the marketplace, consumers, channels, competitors, and the brand results to give a holistic view of the brand’s performance.
  4. Once you have all your findings, you need to be able to write analytical stories that include performance reports and key issues presentations. Then, you need to be able to outline the strategic implications of the brand’s current situation.
 

For more detail on the analytical skills you need to know, you can use our Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks

We have specific chapters on marketing analytics and marketing finance 101. We go into detail on how to analyze the marketplace your brand plays in. We show you how to assess your consumers, the retail channels you sell through, the competitors, and the health of your brand. You can walk away with 60 of the best analytical questions to ask about your brand. Bring the analysis together into the drivers, inhibitors, threats, and opportunities.
In terms of marketing finance 101, you will learn all the financial formulas you need to know so you can figure out your compound annual growth rates, price increases, cost of goods (COGs), and return on investment (ROI). I will also show you how to assess your P&L statement quickly.

Everything brand leaders must know how to do

Brand management was built on a hub-and-spoke system, with the brand manager expected to sit right in the middle of the organization, helping drive everything and everyone around the brand. You must know a little of everything that surrounds the brand, the balance of marketing and business.

Our Beloved Brands skills assessment tool

Taking this a step further, use our assessment tool to highlight your own marketing skill gaps. When assessing yourself or a colleague on your team, rate the individual on a 5-point scale for each marketing skill. Use this tool to identify these skill gaps you need to close, whether using our Beloved Brands book or brand training programs to close those gaps. 

Beloved Brands Marketing Training programs

We believe smarter brand leaders will make better decisions and produce exceptional work that leads to higher brand growth. Watch our video to see how our Beloved Brands marketing training program can help your team

To read more about our training program:

https://beloved-brands.com/marketing-training/

This type of thinking can be found in my Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks

  • You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  • To define the brand, I will 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 explore the 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. 
  • 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 creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices. 
  • When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.


You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your brand. My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential.

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

How to define your B2B brand positioning statement

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

As you create your brand positioning statement, look for the ideal space to play and space your brand can win. 

The first step is always to find where to play, which matches up what your customers want with what your brand does best. Next, you layer in what your competition does best, to narrow the space where your brand can win. Your brand might be fast, but if your competitor is even faster, then you will lose out if you try to play in that space. 

Four elements make up a brand positioning statement, including who you serve, where you play, where will you win and why customers should believe you. These are the customer target, marketplace definition, the customer benefit, and support points. 

b2b brand positioning

Where you win

To find the competitive space in which your brand can win. Below, I introduce a Venn diagram of competitive situations that we will use throughout this article. You will see three circles. The first circle comprises everything your customer wants or needs. The second circle includes everything your brand does best, including customer benefits, product features, or proven claims. Finally, the third circle lists what your competitor does best.


 

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

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

 

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

There are four ways you can win the risky zone:

  • Dominate: Use your brand’s power in the market to squeeze out smaller, weaker brands.
  • Gain first-mover advantage: Be the first to capture that space to earn a reputation you can defend.
  • Innovate: Win with innovation and creativity to make your brand seem unique.
  • Captivate: Build a deeper emotional connection to make your brand seem different.

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

Brand positioning statement elements

Four elements make up a brand positioning statement, including who you serve, where you play, where will you win and why customers should believe you. These are the customer target, marketplace definition, the customer benefit, and support points. 

  1. Who is your customer target? What slice of the marketplace is the most motivated by what your brand offers? Do not just think about who you want but rather who wants your brand.
  2. Where will you play? What is the competitive set that defines the space in the market where your brand competes? Positioning is always relative to the other companies your brand competes against.   
  3. Where will you win? What is the main customer benefit promise you will make to the customer target to make your brand stand out as interesting, simple, unique, motivating, and ownable? Do not talk about what you do (features); instead, talk about what the customer gets (functional benefits) and how the customer feels (emotional benefits).
  4. Why should they believe us? Understand what support points and features you need to back up your main promise. These support points should close any possible doubts, questions, or concerns the customer has after hearing your main promise.

Before you randomly write out a brand positioning statement based on your intuition, I will force you to think deeper to help focus your decisions on the best possible space for your brand to win and own.  

The customer benefits ladder

The customer benefits ladder helps turn your brand’s features into customer benefits. Stop talking about what your brand does and start talking about what your customer gets. The four steps to building a customer benefits ladder: 

Leverage all available research to define your ideal customer target profile with need states, customer insights, and the customer enemy.  

Brainstorm all possible brand features. Focus on those features you believe give your brand a competitive advantage.

Move up to the functional benefits by putting yourself in the shoes of the customer. For each feature on your list, ask, “So, what do I get from that?” Challenge yourself to come up with better benefits by asking the question until you move into a richer zone.

Then move up to the emotional benefits. Look at each functional benefit and in the voice of the customer you should ask, “So, how does that make me feel?” As you did in step 3, keep asking the question until you see a more in-depth emotional space you can win with and own.

Functional benefits

To help brand leaders, I have taken nine functional need state zones and expanded the list to over 50 potential functional benefits your brand can build around. As you look through the list, gravitate to the functional benefits you think will fit the needs of your customers and where your brand can do it better than competitors. Start with the words on the cheat sheet below, then layer in your creative language based on specific category words or specific customer words and phrases they use.

Emotional benefits

Below you will find a list of 40 potential emotional benefits. From my experience, marketers are better at finding the ideal rational benefits compared with how they work at finding the ideal emotional benefits for their brands. As a brand, you want to own one emotional space in the customer’s heart as much as you own a rational space in the customer’s mind. When I push brand managers to get emotional, they struggle and opt for what they view as obvious emotions, even if they do not fit with their brand. I swear every brand manager thinks their brand should be the trusted, reliable, and likable. Use our cheat sheet to dig deeper on emotions. 

I have used Hotspex research methodology to create an emotional cheat sheet with eight emotional customer benefits zones, which include optimism, freedom, get noticed, feel satisfied, comfort, fit with company, stay in control, and curious for knowledge. Use the words within each zone to provide added context. 

Build around benefit clusters

Start by looking at the two cheat sheets and narrow down to potential clusters of the functional and emotional benefits. Match what customers want and what your brand does best. I recommend that you take three of the zones from each of the two cheat sheets, and then add 2-3 support words per zone to create a cluster.

For each cluster, use the words to inspire a brainstorm of specific benefit statements that fit your brand, using the specific brand, customer or category words. For Gray’s Lighting, a fictional stage lighting brand that provides such a high quality lighting that it brings out every detail on the face of actors. Concerning functional benefits, I have chosen to build around functional clusters, such as works better for you, sensory appeal, and experiences, and the emotional clusters, such as optimism, feeling free, and getting noticed. Once I made those choices, I began brainstorming 10-15 key benefit phrases that start with “I get…” for the functional benefits and “I feel” for the emotional benefits.  

How to write the final brand positioning statement

Taking all the homework, here are some thoughts on bringing the brand positioning statement together: 

  1. Who is your customer target? Keep your target definition focused. Bring the target to life with need states, customer insights, and a customer enemy. You can have groups of customers, or specific customers.   
  2. Where will you play? Define the space you play in, measuring it against those brands you compete with. 
  3. Where will you win? Narrow your benefit down to one thing. Never try to stand for too many things at once—whether too many functional benefits or too many emotional benefits. You cannot be all things to all people. Make sure you talk benefits, not features. The ideal space must be unique and motivating to the customers while being ownable for your brand. 
  4. Why should they believe us? The role of support points is to resolve any potential doubts the customers might have when they see your main benefit. Ensure these support points are not just random claims or features that you want to jam into your brand message. They should support and fit with the main benefit.

The final brand positioning statement for Gray’s Lighting

The brand positioning statement works with Technology brands

This type of thinking can be found in my B2B Brands book

Learn to think, define, plan, execute and analyze

  • You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  • To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a customer profile and a customer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the 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. 
  • 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 creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around marketing communications and media choices. 
  • When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your B2B brand. My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential.

You can find B2B Brands on Amazon, Apple books or Rakuten/Kobo books

How your B2B brand can win with the four-headed B2B customers

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

B2B follows a different type of targeting. First, while a B2B brand may start off thinking about selling to the entire market, then begin narrowing down based on the kind of customer or the subsegments of the category. As B2B marketers approach their customers, they must understand there are four types of people at the customer, including:  

  • End-user who has the immediate need
  • Decision-maker who ultimately approves the purchase
  • Buyer who performs the final sale 
  • Influencing voice somewhere in the organization

Depending on the size, power, and formality of the purchasing process of your customer, these four roles could be four distinct people who rarely engage each other, or for a simple purchase, it could be one or two people. 

b2b customers

B2B customers act like a four-headed monster with different roles of the people within your customers’ companies

As you look at those four roles within your B2B customer audience, you have to understand how each role can impact your sale. I recommend you understand: a) each person’s motivation behind a potential purchase, b) what it will take for them to see, think, do, feel, or whisper, c) what could go wrong that you need to watch out for, and d) where your sales team needs to focus.

The end-user

The motivation of the B2B end user is most similar to how a consumer would act with a brand. The end user focuses on how their personal experience will help them improve their performance in their role. Like a typical consumer, you want them to think about how the purchase will boost their performance, so they feel motivated to influence stakeholders to close the deal internally. It would help if you got them to use their motivation to fight for the purchase. One major caution to watch out for is when the user is forced into a decision by the decision maker (their boss) or the buyer (due to savings), which they might naturally resist. It would be best if you had a personal connection with the end user to gain their trust. Focus your sales team on providing demonstrations or trials to show the end user the functional and emotional benefits related to their performance.

Decision maker

Usually, the decision makers’ motivation will focus on understanding how your brand will add to their in-market performance impact and related business results. If they are a former user, they may bring their own bias to the decision, believing they know what is best for the end user. You will need a logical and quantifiable case for change to help them to think the impact and results will justify their decision. When your entrance is through the end user, be careful they are not brought in too late to a potential decision, as it may frustrate them. A deal can fall apart if the user cannot build the case for change. Your sales team should involve decision makers early so you can understand their specific needs and requirements to build a case for change.

The buyer

Within an organization, the buyer’s role is to focus on measures and control so they can find cost savings for the company. They focus on comparative price points and terms. What you want them to see are the savings to justify the purchase. As they are generalists covering so many different areas of procurement, you need to educate them on the technical aspects of products and services, so they feel in control of the decision. The big caution is when the end user does not consult the buyer, it will frustrate them, and you may need to go back to the beginning and explain everything again. The buyer will need firm forecasted numbers to compare with other options. They may compare the metrics to the current status quo or other competitive brands. Your sales team should highlight comparative performance results and focus on the overall cost. When possible, avoid the line-by-line comparison as the buyer may force you to deliver the lowest price on each line. That risks cutting into your overall profitability.

Influencing voice

The influencing voice is the hardest to manage, as it can come from anywhere in the organization. It could be a peer or mentor providing advice to your end user. Those individuals are the hardest for you to manage. 

The influencing voices you should focus on are those peripheral leaders in other departments to your end user who will want to influence the purchase, so it can positively impact their vision and goals. For instance, when you are selling travel expense software, the sales leader might be an influential voice. If you are selling new ingredient materials, then the marketing leader would want an influential voice for that decision. When they are highly motivated, they become an active voice, whispering to decision maker and user, almost selling internally on impact and performance. You want them selling for your brand, not against. The most significant risk you need to manage is, when they see no personal benefit to their role, they turn into an absent voice, which is a passive non-supporter. You need to understand the influencer’s motivation, so you can engage them when they are highly motivated, and yet manage them when they do not care.

Build your brand around benefit clusters

Start by looking at the two cheat sheets and narrow down to potential clusters of the functional and emotional benefits. Match what customers want and what your brand does best. I recommend that you take three of the zones from each of the two cheat sheets, and then add 2-3 support words per zone to create a cluster.

For each cluster, use the words to inspire a brainstorm of specific benefit statements that fit your brand, using the specific brand, customer or category words. For Gray’s Lighting, a fictional stage lighting brand that provides such a high quality lighting that it brings out every detail on the face of actors. Concerning functional benefits, I have chosen to build around functional clusters, such as works better for you, sensory appeal, and experiences, and the emotional clusters, such as optimism, feeling free, and getting noticed. Once I made those choices, I began brainstorming 10-15 key benefit phrases that start with “I get…” for the functional benefits and “I feel” for the emotional benefits.  

Using your benefit clusters to manage the four-headed monster of the B2B customer

Using the clusters from Gray’s Stage Lighting, below shows how each of the four people within a customer are motivated by the different benefits within your cluster. While you may narrow down your focus for your main communication, as you work directly with the specific people at your customer, the clusters give you a bit more flexibility in how you sell your brand. 

This type of thinking is in my B2B Brands book

Learn to think, define, plan, execute and analyze

  • You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  • To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a customer profile and a customer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the 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. 
  • 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 creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around marketing communications and media choices. 
  • When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your B2B brand. My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential.

You can find B2B Brands on Amazon, Apple books or Rakuten/Kobo books

How brand leaders can manage the creative spirit needed for brand growth

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The best brand leader plays the most crucial role in the creative advertising process. While they are not designed to be experts, they need to know enough to make advertising decisions, but never enough to do the work.

With the increasing speed of advertising, brand leaders have taken one step in and often find themselves embedded in the creative development. If you are now doing the work, then who is critiquing and who is deciding if the work is good enough and if it fits your strategy? Even using “internal agencies” creates a blind spot. Brand leaders need to step back and let the creativity unfold. 

creativity

You don't have to be creative, but you do have to enable creativity

It takes a unique leadership skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct, and decide, without any expertise at all. As we engage experts, the respect we show can either inspire greatness or crush their creative spirit. From my experience, the best advertising people I have worked with would prefer to be pushed rather than held back. The last thing they want is for you to ask for their expertise, and then tell them what to do.

If you knew that being a better advertising client would result in better work, would you do it? Being good at advertising is something you can learn. I will show you how to judge and how to make decisions to choose the best advertising for your brand. Your advertising needs enough branded breakthrough to stand out from the market clutter, so your brand connects with consumers. It must have a motivating message to move consumers along their purchase journey, whether you want them to see, think, feel, do, or influence.

The thinking behind the creativity needed on your brand

The best marketing execution must balance being creatively different and strategically smart. 

When your marketing execution is smart but not different, they get lost in the clutter. It is natural for marketers to tense up when the creative work ends up being “too different.”  I have noticed in all parts of the business, marketers are trained to look for past proof as a sign something will work. However, when it comes to advertising or any other type of marketing execution, if the work starts too similar to what other brands have already done, then the advertising will be at risk of boring your consumers, so you never stand out enough to capture their attention. Push your comfort with creativity and take a chance to ensure your ad breaks through. 

When ads are different but not smart, they will entertain consumers, but do nothing for your brand. Your advertising must be smart enough to trigger the desired consumer response to match your brand strategy.

How to handle yourself at the creative meeting

In your next creative advertising meeting, you should think fast with your instincts, while trying to represent your consumer. View the advertising through the eyes of your consumer. Try to see the work how they would see it. I would not even let my agency do a setup to the ads. I said, “Just show me the work as though I see it on TV.” 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 ad has the potential to do? Will you be proud of this ad as your legacy?

Does the ad deliver the strategy? Slow down with some thinking time after the meeting. In a quiet place alone, make sure it delivers your strategy. Does the ad match up to the objective in the creative brief? Does it achieve the desired consumer response? Will it have an expected market impact and brand performance? Don’t over-think and talk yourself out of a good ad that works.

Will the ad build a bond with consumers? Will it speak directly to the consumer target, leverage consumer insights to connect, deepen our bond with our consumers, or build memories and rituals?

Does the ad 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 consumers and ownable for the brand? Is the ad different enough to capture attention within the clutter? Does the creative naturally set up the main message and move consumers to think, feel, or act? 

Making decisions on the creativity of your brand

You have three choices: Approve, reject, or change the work. From my experience, brand leaders rarely approve creative ideas outright. There also seems a reluctance or fear to reject outright. So marketers mistakenly assume their role is to change the ads. I see too many marketers come to the creative meeting with a pen and paper and start to write feverishly all the recommended changes they have for each ad. The problem is if we marketers are not talented enough to come up with the ad in the first place, why do we think we are talented enough to change the ad? You are a generalist, surrounded by experts. Use your experts. 

Next time you go into a creative meeting, use the checklist, and score each point high, medium, or low. Look at the most significant gaps. Then, take those gaps, and create directional feedback, to move the creative team. Stop giving the creative team your solutions, and give them new problems. Think of your feedbacks a game, where you want to move the creative work into a better space, without giving them the exact answer.  If the creative brief is a “box” that creates a problem for the creative team to figure out, then use your feedback to create a new “box” for them to solve. Use your feedback to challenge and create a new problem for your agency to figure out the solution.

The best creative people I know would rather be pushed to do better work, then held back to settle for OK work. Our greatness as a brand leader has to come from the experts we engage, so they will be inspired to reach for their own greatness and apply it to our brand.

This type of thinking can be found in my Beloved Brands book

Learn to think, define, plan, execute and analyze

  • You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  • To define the brand, I will 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 explore the 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. 
  • 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 creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices. 
  • When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your brand. My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential.

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

Use our Strategic ThinkBox tool to assess your B2B brand strategy

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

I want to show you how to use our Strategic ThinkBox tool so you can frame your thinking before you take action. It takes a strategically sound B2B marketer to figure out how to win with brand love to attract loyal customers. As marketing rapidly evolves, the fundamentals of B2B brand management matter more now than ever.

Today’s B2B marketers are so busy, running from meeting to meeting, and they feel overwhelmed and confused. They have no time to think. Marketing is now about ‘get stuff done’— and never about taking the time to stop and ask if it is the right stuff to do.

Meanwhile, to build a relationship, you must take the time to genuinely court your customers. To move your customer from stranger to friend and onto the forever stage, you need to think all the time. With the focus on access to big data, marketers are drowning in data, that they do not even have the time to sort through it all to produce the analytical stories to help to make decisions. I see that B2B marketers are so overwhelmed by the breadth of media choices and the pressure to be everywhere, that the quality of B2B marketing execution has suffered.

Use our ThinkBox and PlayBox to manage your brand

I want to introduce you to my Strategic ThinkBox concept, which I have borrowed from sports. For instance, in golf, using a ThinkBox forces you to consider everything you are facing before you take 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 customers, 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.

The four questions in your Strategic ThinkBox

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 customer to your brand?
  3. What is your current competitive position?
  4. What business situation does your brand currently face?

 

1. Start with your brand’s core strength. Decide which of four choices you will lead with: 

  • Product
  • Brand story
  • Customer experience
  • 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.

2. Next, you have to look at your customer strategy. Start by determining where your brand currently sits on the brand love curve, whether your brand is:

  • Indifferent
  • Like it
  • Love it
  • Beloved 

The goal is to tighten the bond with your customer 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 customer, and market dynamics to determine where your brand sits on the brand love curve. I will outline clear game plans for each stage.

3. Regarding the competitive strategy, you must choose from one of four different types of competitive situations you find your brand operating within: 

  • Power players are the dominant leader in the category and take a competitive defensive stance
  • Challenger brands have gained enough power to battle head-to-head with the market leader
  • Disruptor brands have found a space so different they can pull customers away from any significant category players
  • Craft brands aggressively go against the category with a niche target market and a niche customer benefit. They are small and stay far away from the market leaders 

Each competitive situation leads to different strategy choices.

4. 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: 

  • Keep the momentum going
  • Face a business turnaround situation
  • Realign everyone behind a strategy
  • Your brand is a start-up

Each situation leads to distinct strategies and leadership styles to deploy. 

As you put all four answers together, you start to map out the overall strategic direction where you should focus. When writing the brand plan, I recommend you map out a specific key issue question for each of the four strategic questions in your ThinkBox.  

How our Strategic ThinkBox works with B2B brands

FedEx

FedEx’s core strength has been its remarkable experience in shipping small packages overnight, which it pioneered in the 1970s. In terms of competitive strategy, FedEx entered the market as a classic disruptor, who  made it impossible for any current alternative to compete and gave the company a significant competitive advantage over UPS. However, UPS caught up in the 1980s, and most customers now view FedEx and UPS as equals. 

In terms of customer strategy, FedEx remains one of the most trusted B2B brands, but UPS is almost as highly trusted. Yes, some loyal customers still love FedEx, but many are indifferent when they compare FedEx to UPS because there is no clear point of difference between them. FedEx’s bond with customers is at risk, leaving the customer’s decision to be made on price or availability.

Even with strong brand scores, the business situation is not great. With flat sales and pricing challenges, FedEx has seen its valuation fall 25% in the past few years. FedEx is stuck, wondering where to go next. E-commerce retailers and brands are building their own delivery systems for direct-to-consumer service. FedEx recently lost its deal with Amazon. FedEx is a classic case where its success is a burden. The challenge FedEx now faces is to find new revenue streams, or it will face a long, steady decline, and pinpoint where to attack itself to eliminate costs out of the system.    

Boeing

Boeing is a product-led brand, now facing issues with their product due to recent crashes of the Boeing 737 MAX. For decades, Boeing has been one of the most respected and admired companies in the world. However, Boeing has completely mishandled its 737 MAX situation. It’s a classic case of the PR misjudgment of hoping the story goes away rather than address the root causes head-on. As a result, Boeing’s reputation, sales results, and financial outlook have all suffered. As reporters look deeper, they question Boeing on its commitment to safety, suggesting the company is more focused on profits and cost efficiency than safety.

From a customer view, Ed Sims, the WestJet Airlines CEO, was quoted for his evaluation of Boeing saying, “I would grade it no higher than a B. I expect A-plus service from every supplier to WestJet, just as we expect our customers to evaluate us in the same way. I think Boeing has missed a beat, frankly, in the way that they have responded to this crisis.” That is never a comment a brand wants to hear from their customer. 

Boeing competes head-to-head with Airbus, similar to how Coke and Pepsi battle each other. Every loss by one brand is the other brand’s gain. In the months following the 737 MAX crisis, Boeing’s market capitalization fell by $30 billion, while Airbus quickly climbed $20 billion. Moreover, Airbus has used the crisis to race ahead of Boeing with new orders and deliveries. The challenge for Boeing is how to put the crisis behind it and refocus on innovation to get back into a competitive position with customers.  

Microsoft

When it comes to enterprise software, Microsoft is the dominant power player B2B brand having achieved a near-monopoly in the PC market with core products such as Windows, Office, and Outlook. From 2000 to 2012, their valuation felt stuck, relying on a steady stream of sales for business offices, but Microsoft didn’t seem to know where to go next, with failures in mobile, music, and search engines. The brand needed a realignment to steer it toward the future. In the last few years, Microsoft’s growth has shifted investment and attention to its B2B enterprise business, behind the Azure cloud business, which includes on-premise servers, and software and enterprise consulting services. Arguably, Microsoft has shifted its B2B focus from product-led to experience-led. The valuation for Microsoft is up four-fold, surpassing $1 trillion. Abandoning the monopoly mindset has opened up innovation with the Internet of Things (IoT), which will connect everyday internet connections with data collection and automation. As the business transforms, Microsoft needs to continue its momentum and competitively battle cloud offerings from Amazon and Google.

Marriott International

Marriott is the choice hotel of the business executive, not just because of the quality of its hotel rooms, but the exceptional Marriott Rewards program that makes staying in its hotels a must-have by making loyalty more enticing. Following the acquisition of Starwood Hotels, Marriott is now the power player brand by adding Westin Hotels, Ritz Carlton, and the St. Regis brands. To the market, Marriott takes a house of brands approach, but internally, the Marriott Rewards program unifies the company as it approaches the business traveler.

The Marriott Rewards program is the company’s secret sauce among B2B customers, shifting Marriott from a product-led brand into an idea-lead brand. While hotels will bid to procurement departments to be a preferred vendor, business executives have become so addicted to Marriott Rewards they insist on staying at a Marriott. With the stock up eight-fold over the last decade, Marriott needs to continue its momentum. The recent launch of the Marriott Bonvoy Rewards program goes beyond just earning and redeeming free hotel stays, now including 40 airline partners, and the ability to book flights and cars using only points. This reward program is its new power play, as it beats any competitive offering. Marriott is a great B2B case study. It proves that, instead of treating a company as your customer, B2B brands should now manage every employee at a company as a potential customer.

Facebook

Although Facebook is primarily a consumer-facing brand, all of its revenues come from B2B media sales. Facebook is an idea-led brand, and the dominant power player, willing to bully any competitor who threatens it. 

In terms of its bond with customers, five years ago, Facebook was on the verge of becoming a beloved brand. Yet Facebook’s arrogance and hunger for even more power have eroded its trust with users, and that puts its future B2B media revenues at risk. There remains doubt about how Facebook will handle privacy, political interference, and concerns over the accuracy of its audience numbers – uncertainty that continues to cloud Facebook’s trust. Mark Zuckerberg must be more forthcoming and honest in how he portrays his brand. The question Facebook should focus on is how to tighten its bond with users. 

Looking at its business situation, Facebook still sees significant momentum with revenue increases of 20-30%. Facebook needs to regain its trust because the most significant risk to its arrogance is the threat of government regulations that would severely cut into future revenues. 

You can find this type of thinking in our new B2B Brands book

The table of contents for the B2B Brands playbook

Click on any to expand

Learn to think, define, plan, inspire and analyze

  • You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  • To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a customer profile and a customer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the 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. 
  • 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 creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around marketing communications and media choices. 
  • When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your B2B brand. My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential.

You can find B2B Brands on Amazon, Apple books or Rakuten/Kobo books

The ten best ads of the decade

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

To be honest, it wasn’t our best decade for advertising. We saw way too many small tactical ideas trying to drive tranactions too fast. We saw way too many tweets, fake influencers, and boring digital ads. It seems appropriate we ended the decade celebrating a 4/10 gin ad that knocked a 2/10 Peleton ad. I was excited about the gin ad, until I saw it. Then I wished they spent a few more hours to actually come up with a script.

I come at advertising as a client-side marketer. While I could never make the work, I spent my career judging, deciding and paying for the work. 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. 

 

Here are four questions to ask for judging ads:

  1. Does the ad earn the consumer’s attention?
  2. Is the creative idea helping to drive maximum brand involvement?
  3. Does the ad set up the communication of the main consumer benefit?
  4. Is the creative idea memorable enough to stick in the consumer’s mind and move them to purchase?
 

The best advertising must balance being creatively different and strategically smart. 

 
When ads are smart but not different, they get lost in the clutter. It is natural for marketers to tense up when the creative work ends up being “too different.” In all parts of the business, marketers are trained to look for past proof as a sign something will work. However, when it comes to advertising if the ads start too similar to what other brands have already done, then the advertising will be at risk of boring your consumers, so you never stand out enough to capture their attention. Push your comfort with creativity and take a chance to ensure your ad breaks through. 
 
When ads are different but not smart, they will entertain consumers, but do nothing for your brand. Your advertising must be smart enough to trigger the desired consumer response to match your brand strategy.
 

This is the type of thinking I use when deciding the ten best ads of the decade. 

Dollar Shave launch

One of the best viral ads is for Dollar Shave. The brand created a hilarious, edgy, low-budget YouTube-driven video, which has generated millions of hits. The tagline for the ad is “Our blades are f**king great,” which will undoubtedly alienate many people. However, it will inevitably make the younger male audience quickly love them. The ad tells a quirky story of why the brand doesn’t waste money like Gillette does, setting up the idea its razors are much cheaper than Gillette’s. The ad helped launch the brand, which Unilever bought five years later for $1 billion. One of the best ads of the decade. 

It's a Tide ad

I never thought during a Super Bowl game, I would ever say, “I’m looking forward to the next Tide ad” but that’s what I said when Tide created the perfect harmony of creative idea and media. Tide has always been one of the more trusted brands, but almost stoic and cold in their behavior. Fifty years of side-by-side demonstrations against every possible type of stain. With “It’s a Tide ad”, using the boring Tide brand added to the humor. With all eyes judging every Super Bowl ad, Tide decided to mock the typical ads, and surprise you that it was Tide doing so. Full marks for attention, brand link and stickiness. As Tide has 99% awareness for being the stain-fighter, they didn’t need to overly communicate much. Nice job P&G!

John Lewis "2011 Christmas ad"

John Lewis has been creating magical Christmas ads for a decade. To me, 2011 remains the best. The ad tells the story in a very emotional way and communicates the art of giving which is what the season should be about. With ads that jump off the screen each year, consumers began looking out of the latest John Lewis ad. Have a look: 

Nike "Colin Kaepernick"

The firestorm started with a tweet on a Monday night by Colin Kaepernick. Everything took off from there. In a decade of dumb, everyone took their own side, and the back and forth on Tuesday was a social media firestorm. The stock price fell 2-3% in one day.  

A the time, I said “Truth be told, the results of this stance should be judged 3-5 years from now, not 3-5 days later.” Many took joy in the stock falling. 

Nike definitely supports their athletes. These type of ads will get more high profile athletes to want to sign up with Nike….and over time the 15-year-old athletes will buy MORE Nike shoes ($200 shoes at a rate of 3 to 5 pair/year) offsetting the 55-year-old non-athlete boycotting Nike ($70 shoes at a rate of 1 pair/year). 

Not sure where they are now, but the Nike stock is up 25% 18 months later.  The spot is high on attention and branding. Even if you take Kaepernick out of the ad, listen to the beauty of the copy. Twenty years from now, people will talk about this ad. That makes it one of the best of the decade.

Snickers "Betty White"

A great example of amplifying your consumer benefit is the Snickers Super Bowl ad with Betty White playing football with a bunch of college-aged guys. After a bad play by Betty, one of the buddies yells at her that she is “not playing like her normal self.” He then hands Betty a Snickers bar and Betty turns back into the college-aged football player. The ad uses the consumer insight of, “You’re not you when you’re hungry” to set up the consumer benefit of how Snickers satisfies your hunger. This technique is a great combination that would fit many brands.

Google India "Reunion"

Google India launched a beautiful viral ad, which earned millions of YouTube hits. The first time I saw the ad, I cried, even though I could not understand the language, I realized the great storytelling was obvious enough to follow. The ad starts with an elderly Indian man, who tells his granddaughter a story of how he lost touch with his childhood best friend after the partition of India in 1947. With the details of her grandfather’s story, the granddaughter locates his childhood friend in Pakistan and connects with the other best friend’s grandson, who is willing to help her to plan a surprise visit for her grandfather’s birthday. Every element of the search and the travel arrangement is done through Google. The brand weaves naturally throughout the ad.

Always "Like a Girl"

Most days I can safely say “we are just marketers,” but every once in a while, I see that we can have a cultural impact. We can use our platform to stand up for consumers, in this case, teenage girls, and in fact, all women will be moved by this video. 

The Always “Like a girl” campaign is an inspirational video that connects with true insight about the perception of how girls run changes as they hit puberty.  The ad starts by asking 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. The Always brand closely lines itself to the insights about the changes happening at puberty, just as moms and daughter will be choosing the feminine hygiene brand they will use. 

Nike "Find your greatness"

With “Jogger” from the 2012 London Olympics, Nike used a heavy-set kid jogging at 6 a.m., to show how not all of us are superstars and challenges the average athlete inside all of us.

Dodge Ram "Farmer"

While nearly every Super Bowl ad is loud and funny, Dodge Ram used a quietly dramatic ad, using Paul Harvey’s famous radio show recording called, “God created a farmer.” The ad is set against gorgeous photos of hard-working farmers, telling a classic working-class America story. It is a highly inspiring, optimistic story that will give you patriotic goose bumps.

Apple iPhone Christmas

Apple used a simple demo with their 2013 Christmas spot, about a young boy who appeared obsessed with his phone. It giving the perception that he was missing out on everything, while really, he was using his phone to capture everything about the holidays. This spot is one of my all-time Christmas favorites.

How to handle yourself at the creative meeting

To help you make better decisions, I have created a Creative Advertising Checklist. It won’t always help you make decisions, but it will certainly identify potential gaps with the ads you are seeing. 

checklist

In your next creative advertising meeting, you should think fast with your instincts, while trying to represent your consumer. View the advertising through the eyes of your consumer. Try to see the work how they would see it. I would not even let my agency do a setup to the ads. I said, “Just show me the work as though I see it on TV.” 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 ad has the potential to do? Will you be proud of this ad as your legacy?

Does the ad deliver the strategy? Slow down with some thinking time after the meeting. In a quiet place alone, make sure it delivers your strategy. Does the ad match up to the objective in the creative brief? Does it achieve the desired consumer response? Will it have an expected market impact and brand performance? Don’t over-think and talk yourself out of a good ad that works.

Will the ad build a bond with consumers? Will it speak directly to the consumer target, leverage consumer insights to connect, deepen our bond with our consumers, or build memories and rituals?

Does the ad 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 consumers and ownable for the brand? Is the ad different enough to capture attention within the clutter? Does the creative naturally set up the main message and move consumers to think, feel, or act? 

Read our article on how to manage the creative process:

https://beloved-brands.com/2018/02/27/creative-ad-process/


This type of thinking can be found in my Beloved Brands book

Learn to think, define, plan, execute and analyze

  • You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  • To define the brand, I will 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 explore the 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. 
  • 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 creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices. 
  • When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your brand. My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential.

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

How to make smarter media decisions to break through

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

As the brand leader, you need to start with the right questions to help you frame your media plan. Consider factors such as your brand’s budget size, your brand’s core strength and how tightly connected your brand is with consumers. Then identify which point on the consumer journey you wish to impact, where your consumers are most willing to engage your message and what media choices best fit with your creative execution.

What is the size of your brand’s media budget?

Balance the media choices by looking at media efficiency, quality, impact, and fit with the brand. The efficiency of media math starts with reach and frequency. 

 

  • Reach is the number or percentage of different households or people exposed to the ad at least once, over a specific period. 
  • Frequency is the number of times that household or person will be exposed to the ad within a particular period. Be careful to avoid relying on efficiency alone, as you need to balance it with the quality of the media choices. 

 

I always set aside about 10 percent of my media budget to create a high impact to generate early attention to a new campaign or product innovation.

 

Use your strategic thinking to understand how much you can invest. You need to focus your limited resources on a distinct opportunity point you have identified based on a potential change in the market. The reasons you would strategically invest in media include:  

  

      • Discovery of a new brand message you know will motivate consumers to buy your brand.
      • Identified change in consumer needs, motivations, or behaviors, which will benefit your brand.
      • Shift the competitive dynamic, with an opportunity to make gains or a necessity to defend.
      • Continue to fuel brand growth with a window to drive brand profits. 
      • New distribution channel you can use to move consumers through before competitors do.
      • The launch of a breakthrough product innovation offering a competitive advantage to your brand. 

To make the media investment pay off, you need to be able to drive a performance result that pays back with an increase in brand power you can use in the future or an immediate increase in brand profit. 

 

 

Six factors to guide you on the size of your media investment:

 

 

  1. Brand profit situation, looking at margin rates and the size of the business.
  2. Past media ROI projected forward as a forecast of the potential.
  3. Impact of your current creative advertising tracking results
  4. Future investment opportunities or future threats to battle.
  5. The degree of competitive pressures in the marketplace and their levels of media spend.
  6. The comparative opportunity cost for investing elsewhere.

What is your brand’s core strength?

Deciding whether your brand will be story-led, product-led, experience-led, or price-led impacts your brand message and related media choices.

If your brand is product-led, focus on standing out with trend influencers and early adopters. Use an interruptive and visual media choice, such as TV or online video, to demonstrate and explain what makes your  product better. You can share the video demonstrations on your brand’s website or through social media. Invest in search to help consumers who may have questions and need more information. Mobilize expert influencers to trigger trend influencers and early adopters to make informed purchases.  

For story-led brands, use media to create a movement behind your idea, purpose, core belief or a stance. Connect with like-minded consumers who could become potential early brand lovers and influence their network to turn your brand into a movement. Bring your brand’s concept, purpose, or story to life using emotional storytelling media, such as TV, long-copy print, storytelling content built to share. This approach allows those early brand lovers to spread awareness with influence and gives your brand an active voice on social media. 

When your brand’s strength is the consumer experience, building your brand awareness takes time. Be patient. The slower build will be well worth the time invested once you hit a tipping point. Start by engaging key influencers and expert reviewers (industry critics) early on to reach the trend influencer consumers who will build word-of-mouth within their network. Build and manage the online customer review sites (Yelp, Trip Advisor) to entice other users to try your brand’s fantastic experience. Consider allowing your staff to share their personal, authentic “wow” stories to become part of the brand’s communication. It is your great people who make the difference. The voice of the consumer will make or break the brand early on. 

When you are a price-led brand, you need high sales volumes to cover the lower margins. The most successful price brands invest in call-to-action, efficient media options, such as 15-second TV, digital display, or radio ads. Use traditional and online price tools, such as flyers or online coupon sites. Use the point of sale media to trigger transactions.

How connected is your brand?

For unknown or indifferent brands, invest in the early part of the consumer journey, with media focused on building awareness to establish the brand positioning in the mind of consumers to separate your brand from the pack. You also need to get your brand into the consumer’s consideration set.    

Brands at the like it stage must separate themselves from others, to build momentum and create a following. Focus on closing the deal, by motivating consumers to buy. You can use search tools and deal-closing claims at the point of sale to resolve any remaining doubts. You can utilize your own e-commerce website or sites such as Amazon, Expedia, or Groupon.

Brands at the love it stage must turn your consumer’s repeat purchases into higher usage frequency and become a favorite part of your consumer’s day. The creative must instill emotional benefits, linked closely to the consumer’s life moments. An excellent tool to use is to map out the “day-in-the-life” of your target consumer and place messages where they are most likely to engage. Use consumer insights to make the messages personal to make consumers feel special and attached to your brand.

At the beloved brand stage, you should begin shifting to a maintenance media plan, enough to maintain your brand’s leadership presence and perception. Stay aware of the competitive activity, which may force you to adjust your budget levels. At this point, you can shift some of your media resources into enhancing the consumer experience, to retain your happy consumers, and to drive a deeper love to harness an army of brand lovers. You can begin creating shareable experiences for your brand lovers to share with their friends. 

Use the brand love curve to focus your media strategy

Where can you best impact the consumer journey?

Old-school marketing used to yell their messages at every possible consumer using mass media, then move consumers naturally through the brand funnel from awareness to purchase and loyalty. With so few media choices, consumers could not escape the advertising. If consumers did not respond the first time, show it to them again and again. Back in the 1970s, it was all about the interruption of consumers, with brands focused primarily on day-after brand recall. Many times, the more annoying the ad, the better it would work. This media planning is not quite the sophisticated media strategy brands need today. 

New-school marketing whispers to the most loyal brand fans, hoping they drive awareness with influence to their friends. The word of a friend will bring more influence to their purchase decision than a random TV ad. As the brand moves to the masses, consumers look for the advice of trusted peers whom they respect to know enough about the latest and greatest of the category. They also look to the brand lovers, giving them evidence the brand does deliver what it promises.

 

In the brand strategy section, I showed you how brands evolved from a craft brand to a disruptor, to a challenger brand and finally to a power player. One significant distinction is what type of consumers they focus on. I introduced the idea of a consumer adoption curve, which leverages four types of consumers:

  • Trend influencers
  • Early adopters
  • Early mass
  • Late mass  

I will use this thinking to show how brands can use influencers to trigger each type of consumer, as the brand evolves from the entry-level craft brand to the power player mass brand.

The role of influencers on the consumer adoption curve

The trend influencer consumers always want leading-edge stuff and are first to try within their social set. They stay aware of what the wise experts are saying, whom they trust or rely upon for knowledge. For brands competing in the car, sports, technology, fashion, entertainment, or foodie markets, there are leading expert reviewers or bloggers who have become the voice of the marketplace. Marketers who have a real revolutionary addition to the category should target and brief these wise experts to ensure they fully understand the brand story and point of difference. This information increases their willingness to recommend new products. 

The early adopter consumers rely on their trend influencer friends for the details of new brands. However, they will also look to social icons as a secondary source for validation. These social icons could include movie stars, singers, or famous athletes. If the social icons are using the new product, this assures the early adopter the new brand is about to hit a tipping point. These consumers always want to stay ahead of the curve, so that they will adopt it now.

Early mass consumers look for the advice of trusted peers whom they respect within their network. These are the people we go to for advice on a given subject. The early mass also looks to early brand lovers for validation of proven success; This satisfaction level gives them evidence the brand does deliver what it promises. The late mass audience is slow to adopt; they look to friends for recommendations but only when they feel comfortable enough to buy the brand. Using media to move consumers along their journey

To drive awareness, you need to stand out and be seen in a crowd. Invest in mass media to gain entry into the consumer’s mind using TV, digital, viral video, out of home, or magazine. Where it makes sense, sponsorships, and experiential events can increase the consumer’s familiarity with the brand. 

To move consumers to the consideration stage, use influencers to teach those seeking to learn more. Use public relations to make the brand part of the news, whether through traditional, social, or blogger channels. Engage the online user review sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, or review sites.

 

For more complex or higher risk purchase decisions, consumers will rely on search for almost everything, even if to confirm what makes sense. Marketers can use search sites, such as Google, expert review sites, and online content, or long copy print media. The brand website comes into play and should include the right information to close off gaps or doubts, then move consumers towards the purchase decision. 

Media options to help trigger purchase, include point-of-sale advertising, with in-store signage, displays, and sales materials to prompt consumers at the purchase moment. Remarketing is a great tool to push consumers who might feel stuck at the consideration stage to reconsider and buy. 

After the purchase, turn usage into a ritual among your most loyal users. Cultivate a collection of brand fans, using VIP programs and experiential events with exclusive deals — layer in emotional advertising to tighten the bond. 

Once you have a strong base, you can mobilize your brand lovers, by intentionally creating shareable experiences, which will trigger brand lovers to share with their network through social media. With the new social media tools, the smartest brands are getting their most engaged consumers to drive awareness. 

Where is your consumer open to listening?

Place your media on the part of the consumer’s life where they will watch, listen, learn, engage, decide, and act. Align with life moments, whether they are parts of the day, the week, the year, or even milestone moments in their life.  

A smart tool for media planning is to map out the day-in-the-life of your consumer, to try to understand what they go through and where they might be most receptive to your message. 

You can take this same tool and map it over the consumer’s life, especially to tap into those life moments when people are most willing to reconsider brands. It might be a stage of life, such as going away to university or getting your first job or having your first child. Each life moment is a chance for brands to get consumers to reconsider their current choices.

What is the best media to deliver the creative?

During the creative process, stay open on media choices

At the start of any creative project, it is hard to know the exact media choices because you have not seen the creative work yet. While writing the brand communications plan, work on a media guideline that picks a lead media only and a few potential secondary media options to explore without committing. At the creative meeting, ask to see each creative idea presented as a 30-second TV ad, a simple billboard, and a long-copy print ad. With this request, you will be able to see how each idea plays out across almost every possible media type. 

The 30-second video script can be repurposed to fit TV ads of any length, movie theatre ads, viral videos, or a video on your website. 

The long copy print can be repurposed to fit with content blogs, news stories through PR, newspapers, magazines, website information, and sales brochures. It can even be atomized, broken down into digestible bits to populate a brand’s social media content. 

The billboard can be repurposed for outdoor signage, digital display billboards, posters, in-store display signs, or even a magazine’s back cover designs. 

Use the brand idea to align every media choice.

This process allows you to make creative and media decisions together. You will see the ads in context to figure out the best combinations for your brand. Also, you will be able to see the possible breadth of each creative idea, which can provide a clue to the campaign’s longevity. In today’s cluttered media world, the brand idea should help organize all four types of media, including paid, earned, shared, and owned.   

This type of thinking is in our Beloved Brands book

Learn to think, define, plan, execute and analyze

  • You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  • To define the brand, I will 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 explore the 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. 
  • 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 creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices. 
  • When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your brand. My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential.

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

Click any logo of these book publishers to order Beloved Brands

 

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The best B2B brands are moving closer to consumer marketing

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Traditionally, B2B marketing has been a function that supports the sales team to get short-term leads. I believe today’s B2B marketers should shift their focus to creating a bond with customers, to help win in the long-term.

It is easy to get wrapped up with launching the new product for next week or trying to figure out a price that will help close a deal by noon. You forget to build your brand for the longer term. 

For customers, B2B decisions are much more emotional than you think, yet too many B2B companies focus on product features as the main differentiator and price as their usual deal closer. 

The best B2B brands are building tight bonds with customers, so they feel more and think less. You want your best customers to become fans, who will be the first to try your new product and will want you to win the contract with their company. 

 

Go beyond the product to create an exceptional experience 

The best brands evolve into an experience-led brand, but it is not always a smooth transition. B2B brands face a much greater opportunity to win by adding vital services that elevate you beyond your products. 

 

The people behind your brand will make the most significant difference 

B2B brands have the opportunity to build a culture with values and expected behaviors that can inspire everyone who works behind the scenes to deliver their greatest work on behalf of the brand. Make your best people the face of your brand whose “wow” personal stories showcase why they do what they do and the ways your people go over the top to surprise and delight their customers.

 

Your B2B marketing should connect with people, not companies

As media options expand, B2B brands can connect with specific customers at companies by communicating their beliefs. They can also make customers feel smarter with content that matters, and they can create emotion with stories of the greatness of their people. With account-based marketing (ABM) techniques, you can reach and build a bond with individuals within a company, even if you are not an approved vendor.

 

Balance your effort between building your brand and transactional sales support

One-third of your marketing effort should be brand-building that creates a bond with customers; one-third is transactional sales support around new products and deal closing. If you keep saying “buy me now,” customers will eventually forget why they should ever buy your brand. The remaining one-third might surprise you. I want you to focus one-third on your employees who have to understand everything about your brand, including your brand idea, purpose, values, beliefs, and most motivating and ownable customer benefits. Your people are the face of your brand, and they are the ones who will deliver your brand reputation. 

 

It takes a fundamentally sound B2B marketer to figure out how to win with brand love to attract loyal customers. As marketing rapidly evolves, the fundamentals of brand management matter more now than ever.

Today’s B2B marketers are so busy, running from meeting to meeting, and they feel overwhelmed and confused. They have no time to think. Marketing is now about ‘get stuff done’— and never about taking the time to stop and ask if it is the right stuff to do

Meanwhile, to build a relationship, you must take the time to genuinely court your customers. To move your customer from stranger to friend and onto the forever stage, you need to think all the time. With the focus on access to big data, marketers are drowning in data, that they do not even have the time to sort through it all to produce the analytical stories to help to make decisions. Marketers are so overwhelmed by the breadth of media choices and the pressure to be everywhere. As a result, the quality of B2B marketing execution has suffered.

If B2B marketers do not love the work they create, how can they ever expect the customer to love the brand?

As the bestselling author of Beloved Brands, I recognized the need for a marketing book that focuses on B2B marketing. Many of the same tools work in both consumer and B2B marketing. My goal in writing this B2B Brands playbook is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. I know your role and the challenges you face. I have been in your shoes. I will share everything I have learned in my 20 years in the trenches of brand management. I want to help you be successful. This book is intended as an actionable “make it happen” playbook, not a theory or opinion book.

I have worked in both consumer and B2B marketing, and the similarities are more than you think. I hear, “but we are not a consumer brand” all the time. Yes, you won’t be doing a TV ad on the Super Bowl. However, the same principles that have been working in consumer marketing will have tremendous success with B2B brands.

My first job was at GE, working in the commercial and industrial lighting business. As a consultant for the last decade, I have worked on brands in oil and gas, financial services, medical products, commercial real estate, technology, and telecommunications. All of the models and secrets I use with clients will be part of this book. 

 

What is a B2B brand?

In the diagram, you will see seven types of brand models. For business-to-business (B2B) brands, we will cover four primary types within this book:

  1. B2C thru B: Sell your products through a third-party partner, whose reps then sell your brand to consumers.
  2. B2B Products: Sell your products as an ingredient or component your customers will use to make their brand better.
  3. B2B Services: Sell your services to companies or individuals at the company who want help to achieve success.
  4. DTC: Sell your products directly to specific B2B customers who are using the product in their jobs or companies. 

Choose your business model based on how your customer wants to buy, not how you want to sell.

A great case study is the Apple brand, which now uses all seven of these business models, as they sell to both consumers and businesses, sell both products and services, sell directly, through retailers, and through their own retail stores. Apple allows customers to engage the brand however the customers wish to purchase.

We will show you how to use your brand idea to align marketing communication choices

In today’s cluttered media world, use your brand idea to help organize all types of marketing communication efforts, including your brand story, sales material, trade shows, homepage, search, social media, and any influencer marketing. 

When telling your brand story, you now have many media options available, including white papers, a regular blog, LinkedIn, trade shows, and face-to-face presentations. The challenge is making sure you tell the same brand story, with consistent layers of brand messaging. There is nothing wrong with repetition, especially if you are using various media options to make it more engaging. You might get bored with your words long before any customer will.

You can find this type of thinking in our new B2B Brands book

The table of contents for the B2B Brands playbook

Click on any of the images above to expand

Learn to think, define, plan, inspire and analyze

  • You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  • To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a customer profile and a customer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the 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. 
  • 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 creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around marketing communications and media choices. 
  • When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your B2B brand. My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential.

You can find B2B Brands on Amazon, Apple books or Rakuten/Kobo books

Click any logo of these book publishers to order Beloved Brands