REJECT OK, because OK is the enemy of Greatness

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

Do you remember how you felt when you first landed your first marketing role?  You likely went into marketing because you loved the strategy and the creativity that you saw the great marketers had done.  Beloved Brands like Apple, Nike, Dove, Disney and Starbucks likely  inspired you to get into this role. Unlike other occupations, you were drawn to it, and you wanted to bring an energy level to make a difference.  It likely was hard to get that first marketing job–so many people wanted to get in. And you were so excited on that first day when you walked into the office and found your cubicle.

Your first few months on the job had you crashing and banging into everything. Every day, you heard “you can’t do that” or “we don’t do that here” which started to suck the life and energy out of you. And once you stopped doing those things, you noticed that your performance reviews went so much better. Then you got promoted and made it to a Brand Leader role. Congratulations. But now you have to make a choice: do you cave to corporate world and become the boring marketer that does OK work? Or do you try to reach back to those feelings you had when you entered marketing and find the way to bring it back into the mix with the more sophisticated knowledgeable marketer that you’ve now become?

Explaining what a Marketer does to non-Marketers is odd because we don’t really do anything. We don’t make the product, we don’t make the ads or public relations and we don’t even sell it. Yet the Brand Leader is held responsible for sales, share and profits. And they should be. While we don’t do anything, we do have a say in everything that goes on about the brand and we sit in the seat that can inspire everyone around you, or it can be the one that inhibits creativity and suck the life out of everyone around you. As you sit in the Brand Leader role, the worst thing you can ever do is say “Yes” to OK ideas. If you’ve ever said “Yes” to an OK idea, you know that you lost a bit of who you wanted to be.

My challenge to you is to REJECT OK, because OK is the enemy of greatness.

Saying “Yes” to OK is even more demoralizing than saying “we don’t do that here”.

Brands move along a Brand Love Curve, moving from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and onto becoming a Beloved Brand.  Most brands find themselves stuck at the Like It stage–where they deliver adequate sales and share.  Marketers of Like It brands fear losing those sales, so they opt for the status quo filled with OK ideas.  The problem with status quo in today’s competitive environment is that you are likely falling back to Indifferent and you just don’t realize it. But it should make sense, because if you’re indifferent about your work, then why wouldn’t your brand end up there.

If you don’t love the work you do, then how do you expect the consumer to love your brand?

Rejecting OK work is not easy, especially if you have a reputation for playing it safe and approving OK. It is always tempting to look at all the work that’s been presented to you and figure out which one is the best.  So you pick the 6 out of 10, and make some recommendations that might it up to a 6.5.

Because you don’t really do any of the work, not only do you need to REJECT OK, but you have to inspire the greatness to come from others.

Execution does matter. While we want great execution against great strategy, I’d say that great execution against an OK strategy is better off than OK execution against a great strategy. In today’s crowded marketing world, where consumers see 6,000 ads a day, standing out is more important than it ever has been.

If you are up for the change, you should start at the beginning of the process. Sit with your lead account person and lay out your deepest thoughts on how you want your passion for the work to come shining through.  Find the language that translates your passion accurately at the outset and then be consistent to that passion throughout. Here’s what I have said in the past:  “I know we need an Ad that delivers the strategy, sells more product and drives share. But I also need an Ad that I love, that I’m proud of and something I can hold up and say I DID THIS”. I always felt “I have to love it” is the highest bar you can set. It also gives you the out by saying “I just don’t love it”. Tell your account person, you are building in extra time in the process just so we can see if we can really push to get to great.

But saying is one thing, doing is another. Be consistent at every stage because people follow how you say it as much as what you say. Write an inspiring brief that is open on creativity, and isn’t filled with support points or mandatory requirements. Ask to meet the creative people before the first creative meeting so you can talk about your expectations that you want to create work we all love. At the creative meeting, you need to stay open, positive and push for different because that is usually where greatness lays. Follow your instincts first. Absorb the work in the same way your consumer might. Reach for words that describe your instincts and how you feel about the work. Stay open and inspiring. Do not get into all the details or the changes you want–save those for a post meeting email. Talk only about the work you love–don’t even talk about the ones you don’t like.  You want your positive energy to come through.

It’s one thing to inspire but it’s another thing to actually go for it. I find it strange that Brand Leaders always push for a strategic point of difference no matter how small–but when it comes to execution many of us fear sticking our neck out and looking different.  When it comes down to making the choice, you need to show everyone how serious you are by taking a chance on greatness and not just picking the safe options.  You have to be wiling to fight for it, because you can imagine that there will be push back. This is your opportunity to shine, your opportunity to inspire everyone on your team and your opportunity to push for true greatness for your brand. And you’ll bring back those feelings of excitement that you had the day you decided to get into marketing.

You can only Reject OK, if you are willing to inspire greatness.

To read about how to Create Beloved Brands, read this:



Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management.

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

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

Positioning 2016.112

Ads with strong Brand Link

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

It’s always easier to judge everyone else’s advertising than when you are on the hot seat and judging the ads on your own brand. I’ve been there 100s of times, and I still find it very difficult. You try to balance having it be a good ad, jamming in all the messaging you want and still maintaining enough branding so that it pays off for the brand.


Creating Beloved Brands 2016.077


The tool I use for judging ads is the ABC’S. The best ads attract Attention (A) are about the Brand (B)Communicate the brand’s story (C) and they Stick in people’s minds (S)

  • Attention: You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising.  If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
  • Branding: Ads that are about the brand will link.  The balance is to have it be about the consumers view of the brand. It’s not the amount of branding, but the climax to where the brand fits in.
  • Communication: Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
  • Stickiness: In the end, brands are really about “consistency”. They exist in the minds of the consumer. Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time

So let’s focus on the BRANDING part. How do we ensure high brand link scores?  The 4 simple ways to brand your spot are:

  1. Be Part of the Story: In the spirit of big ideas, how do you tell a story, using your brand. It’s not how much branding you use, or how early you bring the brand name in, but rather how closely connected the brand to the climax of your ad.
  2. Is it the Truth: It sounds funny, but if there is a disconnect between what you say, and what you are….then the brand link won’t be there. People will discard the ad.   But ads that are hitting that truth zone really nail the brand link.  This starts with your creative brief to make sure it connects with what people think about the brand.
  3. Own the Idea Area: Be a bit different—make sure that what you do sets you apart from anyone else.  Not only does the difference help you stand out, it helps you to own it over time.  Within your category or your market, make sure that it doesn’t feel like a copy-cat ad. “Me Too” = “Me” diocre.
  4. Repeat: Don’t be afraid of building your campaign—and the simplest way to get branding is to repeat and repeat and repeat. So many great campaigns have built them over 5-10 yeas.  As you’re in the creative room, sit there and say “can I see this lasting for 5 years?  Is the idea big enough?”

Here are some brands that do a good job in driving Brand Link:

Google “Parisian Love”


Google’s first and only TV was a pure beauty.  Google is part of the story, in fact it’s the facilitator of every part of the story.  And for creative people that hate demos, this is just a demo!   All this ad does is showcase how using this product can make your life better, showing how often we now reach for Google as a support to everything we now do. The beauty of this ad is they were able take the searches into such an emotional space. Whenever you do an interesting demonstration of how your brand really works, the brand link will be very high.  The new great idea is to create an Ad that will be passed on.  Aired once during the Super Bowl, it’s been passed around emails and viewed on youtube millions of time.  In fact, there are hundreds of parody ads as well which shows the power of the idea.  

Listerine “Bottle Guy”


I’m sneaking another one of mine in here.  Listerine ads are hard to make interesting–it’s a very serious brand in a low interest category, it’s clinical with information to deliver and how can you make gingivitis interesting.  This campaign idea lasted 10 years, and had brand link scores of 85-97%.  People would dress up as Listerine at Halloween and when we brought the Bottle Guy to events, we had people lined up to get their photo taken with him. These ads were kind of crazy–but so different that they stood out.  With such a high brand link and stickiness already embedded in the idea, we could dedicate all our attention to driving the message–a new message about healthier gums.  Truth be told, I wasn’t sure whether it would work or whether I’d be quickly fired.  But it was sure fun finding out–and Listerine grew over 10% for the next 10 years.   

Apple: “Mac vs PC”

Mac took such a simple concept of the side-by-side demonstration and made it compelling and ownable.  In terms of repeating, Mac must have made hundreds of these, all great and all consistent to the same tone and message.  Part of the brilliance is they never shifted too far from the big idea and yet found room to continuously surprise and delight their loyal following.  So many creative teams presented the “apple” style ads after those ads, but in reality, Apple owned any two guys standing side-by-side.  

For more reading on the ABC’s, view the following presentation:

Or read an article on being An Advertising Leader.


Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

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

Positioning 2016.112

How your brand can win, by linking into the Consumers’ need for a life change

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

While the news is filled with change, change and more change. While we talk at the lunch table about the changes we are going to make in our lives next year and while we walk around constantly thinking of ways to improve ourselves, most people hate change. We think about change more than we take action for change. In fact, 95% of the thoughts we’ll have today, are the exact same thoughts we had yesterday. How’s that for progress.

Ever notice when someone is going to quit smoking they might say “on February 1st, I’m going to quit” or “I’m going on my diet on Monday”. It might sound silly but what they are doing is following the Preparation Stage of a Change Model as they put a stake in the ground so they can spend some time to mentally get ready for the change. Change can happen in many categories but it happens a lot in the healthcare and wellness space, which is why January is filled with people go on diets, quit smoking, join a gym, start following a new routine. The new year has triggered and facilitated the change. It’s also why marketers in these categories want to own New Years eve or even Sunday night to capture consumers when they are ready for change. I know when I worked at Johnson and Johnson, we specifically targeted Sunday nights, as people were in a mode for change as well as in the mood for digesting information.

In healthcare, the way I’ve always modelled change is to map out whether consumers are either proactive or reactive mindset and whether they are trying to prevent or repair a problem. Proactives are driven by knowledge whereas Reactives are driven by an event. Preventers are those who connect lifestyle to the health issue and are willing to change the lifestyle. Whereas, repair types are those who directly address the issue at hand, but may not change their overall lifestyle. Mapping this out, we see four potential types of consumers:

  • Proactive Preventers do what it takes to maintain their overall health. They watch what they eat, workout, do things in moderation and maintain overall good health. Their change is usually triggered by information about new learnings in the healthcare field. They’d be early adopters to new trends.  What lies in their motivation could be a combination of overall health values or something in their family history that might motivate them to maintain such a healthy lifestyle.
  • Reactive Preventers change their ways and shift their life completely based on a trigger in their life. It could be an event that happened directly to them or someone close to them. The change is an awakening that makes them re-look everything in their life and then they realize they are no longer invincible. They might start connecting the lifestyle to the event and then want to make the change overall.
  • Proactive Fix have the need for change triggered by knowledge. It could be a news story or a key influencers provide them with new information that makes them undertake the change before things happen. Many times people get so busy they didn’t realize what happened and then the trigger makes them re-look and fix it before things happen. The trigger could be having a baby or turning 40 or just a realization that things got out of control.
  • Reactive Fix are usually those who experience something bad and then they feel forced to make a change. It could be the first major health scare. The change is isolated to the cause of the event.

The most common change model has 5 stages:

  1. Pre-Contemplation where they are not ready or willing to change. They likely know the health risks, but they remain at the denial or invincible stage.
  2. Contemplation usually triggered by something they might consider and even start to get ready. This is where they may dig in and find out information about what a potential change would entail and judge whether they are capable of such a change.
  3. Preparation where they declare to themselves that they are ready for the change. Here’s where they set a date, decide on what steps they may need for the change and look into tools that can help them.
  4. Action which is the early stages of the change. Most people need to see some early results as motivation to keep going. People are continuously quitting smoking or going on diets–whether that’s every year or even monthly.
  5. Maintenance where they try to keep going with the change. One of the biggest issues in the healthcare world is compliance. People relapse back to their old ways, starting to smoke again or re-gain the lost weight. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, but with the degree of change it could take even a year. And relapses have been known to happen years later.

How the Marketing can match up to the change model

At the early stages, you need to find some way to trigger them into the consideration of the need for change.  For the Pro-Active Consumers, you can take advantage of their mindset by trying to trigger a need for change by connecting your product to a risk or a known solution need state. You would want to drive problem awareness & outline risks, dangers, issues of non action.  For the Reactive Consumers, you likely need to be there at the trigger point, using key influencers such as healthcare professionals to help dial-up the seriousness of the need for change.

As consumers are in the contemplation stage, they start to prepare and get themselves ready. You want to show positive easy solutions and make change feel do-able. You can use your product to help them visualize that the change would be easier and help set up the idea that they are capable.  You can change their minds about their confidence level with something new.

As they move to the preparation stage, they’ll look for information that can help their journey and re-enforce their capability for achieving success. You want to Own Search. In the modern world, consumers turn to the internet before they turn to healthcare professionals. By helping the consumer early, you may be able to hold onto them throughout the change journey. The problem is that every brand knows this and will drive the costs of search and everyone is doing great websites that are  providing information, advice and tips as they ready themselves. You may wish to use the entry point as the time to introduce the idea of a coach or self-help group. As consumers feel reluctant to take action, they worry they may fail. The coach or group can help add confidence they are not in this alone. Professional, peer, counsellor or on-line support.  With the internet, a virtual coach can be highly effective with daily motivational tips to keep going.

Just before the Action stage, it’s important to help them set realistic goals. Baby steps might be necessary early on, so the consumer can experience a degree of success and feel motivated to keep going. Early failure could send them into the relapse before the change kicks in. They say it’s 21 days to change a habit, but it’s usually a lot longer with all the temptations around.

The change doesn’t end until you get through the maintenance stage. It becomes all about compliance and building the change into your life. Even a year later, you could find an event that triggers you into a relapse.  A lot of vices are connected with stress. For many, comfort food or a coffee and a cigarette just feel great when things get highly stressful. So a new level of life stress can see the consumer reaching for old habits.  Compliance is never an easy thing–even the most serious of heart medications can struggle with compliance.

Keep awareness strong at all stages.

Depending on the potential size of the business, you may wish to cover all parts of the Change Model with a constant level of brand awareness. You want to be visible so that when the consumer turns to looking at solutions, you’re well known and the first point of consideration. For smaller and more specific categories, the first point of awareness would come into play after the consumer has been diagnosed giving power to that doctor recommendation. Doctors love to write scripts, because their patients expect answers. But they can also be conservative and slow to adopt new items, preferring to stay with their trust and usual choice.

Having worked in the quit smoking business for years, here’s a TV ad that shows just how hard change really is. People quit 6-8 times on their own before reaching for the help of a quit smoking product such as Nicoderm or Nicorrette. We capitalized on that fact to show a side-by-side demonstration of the difference when using Nicoderm.


Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

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


Positioning 2016.112

How to build your brand’s media strategy

Posted on 8 CommentsPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

Start with the Brand Funnel

It’s interesting that most people start with where the media is and not where the consumer is in relative terms to where your brand is. Every brand should understand their Brand Funnel, at least measuring Awareness, Purchase and Loyalty rates. While sales, share and profits are the obvious measurements of a brand, they are easy to see but are the end result. The funnel provides richer signals of the true health of the brand before they even show up in share reports and provides possible indicators of future performance.  It’s the equivalent of blood pressure and cholesterol, which aren’t obvious on the surface but are signals of real health concerns that need to be addressed.

Almost like a finger print, every brand has a unique brand funnel. Your brand will have certain strength as well as leaks in the funnel. For instance, most Challenger Brands are either at the Indifferent or Like It stage, and they have a funnel that gets skinny quickly as you move down. While challenger brands can garner Awareness, they struggle to stay in the consideration and even fall out even more at the purchase stage.  

I encourage brands to analyse the Leaks by looking at how the consumer might move along the brand going from Indifferent (unaware, noticed) to Like It (interested, bought) to Love It (satisfied, repeater) and Beloved Brand for Life (Fan, outspoken). At each stage, match up what the consumer feels about the brand as well as what the possible reasoning for why they might reject the brand.


Brand Leaders like Sony, started to see cracks at the purchase stage as consumers started seeing just how much better Samsung when they were able to compare brands at the store level. In fact, people hung onto the Sony brand much longer than they should have. That’s actually a sign of the power that Beloved Brand status gives you.

The Consumer Buying System

Going forward, you now understand your brand funnel’s strength and your leaks that you need to close. Then start to Map out your Consumer Buying System and you’ll be able to see how the media plan begin to take shape. With most brands you can see consumers becoming Aware and then Consider. The difference is Awareness can be related to how good your programs are, and consideration is related to how relevant or inspiring your brand concept is. Then consumers go into some type of Search to verify what they’ve now heard, whether that means asking friends, reading reviews or looking on-line. Usually the Search effort is in direct relationship to either the importance or cost of the item.  Some brands, especially CPG items would have a Trial component.  Brands are now utilizing on-line to variations to simulate trial–whether looking at what a house or car might look like, customized to your needs. If trial is crucial to your brand, add that into the buying system. The Buying stage where money is exchanged. At the last-minute something may change a consumers mind.  They may shift based on last-minute information or influence or they may choose to stay with their usual brand. Promotion can move consumers at the last-minute as well, especially on brands where there is little differentiation. After the buying, there can be all types of dynamics, starting with Satisfaction or not meeting expectations. On experiential items, the purchase to satisfaction is even more complicated, especially when product and service are combined (hotels, restaurants, services). After the purchase, consumers quickly decide whether to buy again or reject it or even just buy it occasionally.  It’s not easy to become a usual brand where you start to see the consumer become Loyal or even becoming a Fan of the brand.


Every good strategy starts with a focal point, and media strategies are no different.  While there is a temptation to do it all and cover all part of the buying system, in reality you never have the resources to do it all, so you have to put your money where you think you will have the biggest impact. Even with social media, which is considered “free“, it does still take a lot of effort, so picking the social media that makes most sense for your brand is crucial to the return on effort. Try to match up to return on effort and return on investment by using some Prioritization Tool. Map out all the tactics as to how big they are and how easy they are. You’re trying to find the big and easy ideas–avoiding small and difficult. If they are big and hard, brainstorm ways to make it easier. If they are small and easy, brainstorm ways to make them bigger.

Linking the Love Curve to the consumer buying system

Brands that are stuck at the Indifferent stage should focus their resources against driving overall awareness to ensure the start of a strong funnel. But then, they need to convert  that Awareness into Consideration utilizing announcement style advertising to highlight differences that can separate the brand from competitors. This is where the combination of mass media and digital media can help hold the hand of consumers as they move along the buying system. The brand can also begin utilizing search to their advantage with experts to re-enforce any brand differences or influential consumers with strong opinions

Brands at the Like It stage can find themselves stuck. They are successful enough to be a strong brand, but sometimes too complacent to do anything different. Instead of keep pounding the mass media out, these brands should use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to capture those consumers aggressively seeking out information as they move through the buying system. More and more, with google or social media, it’s easy to seek out expertise or just opinions. Trip Advisor and Yelp are great forums where consumers look to what others have said, and use that information to help consumers to make decisions.  Also consider media that can get as close to the point of sale as possible whether that’s in-store or on-line.

When moving from Like It to Love It, the brand usually moves from a product focus to a higher order and one that talks to the experiences. How media can help is to get consumers to wear the brand as a badge or honour or sharing their experiences. Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest can help consumers tell of their experience or even showcase the consumers love for the brand.  Setting up a Listening Forum helps give consumers a voice in how their brand shows up.  Brands that set up a conversation with their consumers such as Whole Foods who engages on Twitter or TD Bank who set up an ongoing dialogue with consumers.

Moving to the Beloved Brand stage requires a bit of magic. Find a mechanism to surprise and delight your consumers that already love you, create an exclusivity club so consumers can feel they are part of the brand at the highest levels. The effort in both of these areas can help your most loyal consumers to influence others into using the brand.  At the Beloved stage, you need to continually improve to avoid going back down the love curve, and that means managing every part of the consumer buying system. Close leaks before the consumer even knows they are leaks.

A generation ago, brands had a firm control over the message and the media, helping to manage their buying system by themselves.  However, with social media, managing the brand becomes even more complicated because consumers are a medium themselves.  While word of mouth has always been there, it’s normally been Mother to Daughter, Father to Son or friend to friend. Now we rely on complete strangers to make our decisions. It’s a big like playing zone defence instead of man-to-man defence–it can feel a bit looser for Brand Leaders to manage. But in reality, it makes it even more important to know and articulate your positioning, messaging and media choices that make sense. If you engage to listen to your consumers, you have to act on their input and advice.  Otherwise, they’ll stop being engaged.

Before seeing a media plan, I’d encourage to understand where your sits on the Brand Love Curve, dig into your Brand Funnel using it to see strengths and to map out the leaks.  Take that knowledge into the Consumer Buying System so that you are choosing the media options that will help drive stronger growth for your brand. The media choices are all about focus and return on resources–both dollars and effort.  Find the focal point that enables your brand to find more growth.

Use your Media Strategy to force choices to ensure Return and Growth for your brand.

To see a training presentation on getting better  Media Plans

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We make Brand Leaders better.™

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


At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:



A Brand Leader’s View of Social Media

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

There’s been lots of talk lately about how much marketing and brand management has changed.  I’m not sure it’s changed at all.  As Brand Leaders, we still need to start with the consumer, drive for insights, match up their need states to your brand’s offering and then create a competitive offering that you can own so that no else can.  A great brand has to be either better, different or cheaper.   That still holds true, and we still aren’t at the media decision.

Yes, the media options have changed, but  there is so much more to running a brand than just the media options.  The average consumer now sees 6,000 ads per day, and likely only engages and acts on a few each day.  Not just social media, but every little space to and from work each day.  Media is ubiquitous, making it even more important to choose a media plan that makes sense for your brand.  Before we get into the role of social media for brands, let’s review where Media options fit into the Brand Planning process.   Here’s the fastest 130 word summary of the planning process.

  • We have some long-term thoughts on where the brand can go and the special assignment to get us on our way.   And that helps shape the things we want to achieve with our brand.  To get started, the brand has different options for how to get there
  • We try to find a slice of the population to get them to take an action that makes our brand bigger.   We then find out what to say and how to talk to them to trigger that action we need to re-enforce why we can do it and others can’t.
  • We then create the most motivating stimulus to get them to take action and put it in part of their life where they are most likely to hear it and act on it.

So the media choice is all about finding a part of the Target Market’s life where they are most likely to hear the message and act on it.   As I’ve always looked at media plans from the vantage of the Brand Leader, I’ve always looked at a balance of strategy, media efficiency, the link in with the creative and finally, the mood of the consumer at the time of the media exposure.  So with TV, while day parts matter to the efficiency, the day of the week also matters to the mind and mood of the consumer.  How receptive will they be to your message at the time of exposure?  When I worked on serious healthcare brands that wanted to deliver serious news about the brand, we wanted to own Sunday nights when people’s brains were working full-speed as they get ready for work.  But we would avoid Thursday night when we knew they were thinking about the weekend.  When I worked in confectionery, the reverse was true, as we wanted to own the weekend slots.

So as we look at Social Media and where is their mood and emotional state as they engage certain social media options?   I started with the 8 emotional need states that Hotspex as mapped out:

  1. I seek knowledge
  2. I want to be in control
  3. I want to be myself
  4. I’d like to be comfortable
  5. I feel liked
  6. I want to be noticed
  7. I want to feel free
  8. I feel optimistic

I then mapped out the consumer’s mood and emotional state while they are using the various social media tools.

For instance, when the consumer is seeking knowledge, they might use google, slideshare, wikipedia, TD Ameritrade or Harvard Business Review, depending on what knowledge they seek.   But when they in the mood to be noticed or liked, the same consumer might then choose Facebook, foursquare, meebo, twitter or even Pinterest to express their personality on-line and connect with friends.  The same consumer seeks out various social media tools to fuel their emotional needs at different points of the day. I know at lunch, I sneak away from the seriousness of work and read gossip on or check for sports trades on ESPN.

From a Brand Leaders view, as you try to win with consumers,the first thing to do is  understand where your brand stands emotionally with consumers.   Using the Brand Love Curve, most brands start off at Indifferent, then move to Like It, then to Love It and finally to becoming a Beloved Brand.   Be honest in your evaluation, use data to support your view, because it impacts the mood and emotional feelings of your consumer about your brand.  For instance, at the Indifferent stage, where consumers have little or no opinion, I’d recommend using display ads that create awareness and in places that match up to your brand’s main strategy, positioning and messaging.  You might not want to create a Facebook page that only 17 people like–which re-enforces that consumers are indifferent to your brand.  Last month, I saw a rock quarry with a sign that says “Like Us on Facebook”.  That’s crazy!   Conversely, if you are a Beloved Brand, it becomes more about opinion and less about the pure facts.  Engage on Facebook and twitter to continue the conversation and fuel the love of your consumers, use your popularity in those mediums to influence the feeling of a movement and popularity for your brand.

Whenever I talk to Social Media experts, they rarely talk about anything that involves the consumer.  When I ask about the consumer, they blow me off, as though I don’t really understand Social Media and how powerful it will be in the future.  They tell me I’m old school.   But, regardless, I keep asking about the consumer because that’s what old school marketers are told to do.  I need to know how my consumers interact with the medium because I need to match up the behaviour of my target so that I can get my message to them in a way that matches up with my strategic needs–whether that’s connected to the stage of my brand, any strengths and weaknesses in my brand funnel or a large opportunity in the market that plays into my brand’s natural strengths.  Wait a second, that’s the same thing that great marketers have been doing since the 1920s. So while the execution of media has dramatically changed with the internet, the strategic thinking of really good marketers has not.

So next time you sit with a media expert, as they present ideas ask

  • How does my target consumer use this medium?
  • What is their mood and emotional state when they use that medium?
  • How receptive will they be with my brand’s strategy, positioning and message when they are engaged with that medium?

About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. I love great TV ads, I love going into grocery stores on holidays and I love seeing marketers do things I wish I came up with. I’m always eager to talk with marketers about what they want to do. I have walked a mile in your shoes. My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. I’m now a marketing consultant helping brands find their love and find growth for their brands. I do executive training and coaching of executives and brand managers, helping on strategy, brand planning, advertising and profitability. I’m the President of Beloved Brands Inc. and can help you find the love for your brand. To read more about Beloved Brands Inc, visit

How to drive profits through your brand

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

The more loved the brand, the more powerful the brand and in turn the higher growth and profit it can generate.

A beloved brand can use the connection with their consumers as a source of power. The tighter the connection to consumers, the more loved the brand. As a brand becomes more loved, it becomes more powerful, and is able to wield that power onto all aspects of the market. A Beloved Brand can entice consumers to keep coming back, it can fight off competitors to win with key targets, it can generate earned media easier, it can challenge suppliers to come back with lower costs and it leverage its positional power to gain preferential treatment with real estate owners, government or tour operators. Even employees would rather work for a powerful beloved brand than an indifferent brand.

Brands move along a “LOVE CURVE” going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It, and then they’ll make it their Brand For Life. The farther along the curve, the more connected to the brand.

The “Brand Love Curve” can be linked to the Brand Funnel which becomes the underlying scoreboard. You can use the funnel to map out the buying process for the consumer, identifying both strategy and tactics to move them along the funnel towards being more loved. Used properly, the Power of the Brand can help drive the P&L with four important levers: driving increased price, lowering costs, increasing share, creating new markets. As a result, a powerful connected brand is much more efficient. And that efficiency can leverage the P&L to invest back in the brand’s connectivity and drive Profit and over the long run create value for the Brand.

As a Brand Leader looks to how to drive their Brand through the P&L, here are the four ways the Brand Leader can drive profits:


1. Using price as a weapon to drive Brand Value. It can be a price change, up or down, or it could be trying to get consumers to trade up or down.

  • Price Increase: You can do a price increase if the market or brand allows you. It likely has to be based on passing along cost increases. Factors that help are whether you are a healthy brand or it’s a healthy market as well as the power of your brand vs competition and channel.
  • Price Decrease: Used when fighting off competitor, if you need to react to a sluggish economy or channel pressure. Another reason to decrease price is if you have a competitive advantage around cost, whether that’s manufacturing, materials or distribution.

There are watch outs for price changes. It’s difficult to execute especially if it has to go through retailers. You need to understand power relationships–how powerful are the retailers. Many times, price changes are scrutinized so badly by retailers that you must have proof of why you are doing it. It’s likely your Competitors will (over) react. So your assumptions you used to go with the price increase will change right after. And finally, it’s not easy to change back.

  • Trading Up: If you have In a range of products, sometimes it can be beneficial to get consumers to trade up. Can you carve out a meaningful difference to create a second tier that goes beyond your current brand? Does your brand image/ratings allow it?
  • Trading Down: Risky, but you see unserved market, with minimal damage to image/reputation of the brand. In a tough economy, it might be better to create a value set of products rather than lower the price on your main products.

Beloved Brands seem more capable at driving profits through pricing, but they also are careful to ensure the premium does not become excessive to create backlash. There are a few watch outs around trying to trade up or down: Premium skus, can feel orphaned at retail world—on the shelf or missing ads or displays. Managing multiple price levels can be difficult—what to support, price differences etc. For all the effort you go to, make sure your margins stay consistently strong through the trading up or down. Be careful that you don’t lose focus on your core business. Can’t be all things to everyone. The final concern is what does it do your Brand’s image, especially risky when trading downward.

2. Managing cost as a weapon to enhance the Brand’s Value. It can be either your cost of goods or the potential selling costs.

  • Cost of Goods Decreases: You are able to use the power of your brand to drive power over your suppliers, you find cheaper potential raw materials, process improvement or find off-shore manufacturing.
  • Cost of Goods Increases: Make sure that you manage the COGs as they increase. Watch out for suppliers trying to pass along costs. But realize that with new technology, investing in brand’s improved image, going after premium markets, offering new benefit or a format change, that cost of good increases could be a reality.

The watch outs with managing costs: with cuts, make sure the product change is not significantly noticeable. You should understand any potential impact in the eyes of your consumer on your brand’s performance and image. Can the P&L cover these costs, either increased sales or efficiency elsewhere. Managing your margin % is crucial to the long-term success of your brand.

  • Selling Cost Decrease: To counter changes in the P&L (price, volume or cost), it’s very tempting to look to short-term P&L management or look at changes in go-to-market model. Where a brand stands on the product life cycle or how loved the brand is can really impact the selling costs. Even though we think that Beloved Brands have endless spending, they actually likely have a lower investment to sales ratio.
  • Selling Cost Increase: When you’re in Investment mode, defensive position trying to hold share against an aggressive competitor or when you see a proven payback in higher sales–with corresponding margins.

Always be in an ROI mindset: Manage your marketing costs as though every DOLLAR has to efficiently drive sales. Realize that short-term cuts can carry longer term impact. Competitive reaction can influence the impact of investment stance–like a price change, your competitor might over-react to your increases in spending.

3. Externally, the Share and volume game are traditional tools for brand. Either stealing other users or get current users to use more.

  • Offensive Share Gains: Use it when you have a significant Competitive Advantage or you see untapped needs in the market. Or opportunistic, use first mover advantage on new technology.
  • Defensive Share Stance: Hold the fort until you can catch up on technology, maintain profitability, loyal base of followers needs protecting.

Be careful when trying to gain share. A Beloved Brand has a drawing power where it does gain share without having to use attack modes. Attacking competitors can be difficult. It could just become a spend escalation with both brands just going at it. After a share war that’s not based on a substantive reasoning (eg. technology change), there might end up with no winners, just losers. Many times, the channel will try to play one competitor against another for their own gain. Watch out what consumers you target in a competitive battle: some may just come in because of the lower price and go back to their usual brand.

  • Get Current Users to Use More: When there is an opportunity to turn loyal users into creating a potential routine. Changing behaviours is more difficult than enticing trial. It’s a good strategy to use, when your there’s real benefit to your consumer using more. It’s hard to just get them to use more without a real reason.

There has to be a real benefit connected to using more or it might look hollow/shallow. Driving routines is a challenge. Even with “life saving” medicines, the biggest issue is compliance. Find something in their current life to help either ground it or latch onto. When I worked on Listerine, people only used mouthwash 20-30 times a year compared to 700+ brushing occasions. So we focused on connecting rinsing with Listerine to the twice daily brushing routine.

4. Increase the Size of the Market by Finding New Users or Creating New Uses.

  • Find New Users: When there is an untapped or under-served need. There could be a significant changing demographic that impacts your base. Or you are able to translate/transfer your reputation to a new user group. There should be something within your product/brand that helps fuel the brand post trial. Trial without repeat, means you’ll get the spike but then bust. Substantial investment required. Don’t let it distract from protecting the base loyal users.
  • Create New Uses: Format Line Extensions that take your experience or name elsewhere. Able to leverage same benefit in convenient “on the go” offering. Make sure current brand is in order before you divert attention, funding and focus on expansion area. Investment needed, could divert from spend on base business. Be careful because the legendary stories (Arm and Hammer) don’t come along as much as we hope.

Beloved Brands drive strong sales growth, which helps the P&L work harder and more efficiently.

  1. Higher volume helps you exert pressure on costs. That could be supply costs, operations costs, distribution over even media costs.
  2. Get More for Less From the Trade. You can begin exerting power over the sales channels to your advantage–trimming variable trade costs with retailers while demanding more display, prime real estate, coop advertising and more control over pricing. ROI on trade programs.
  3. Smarter More Efficient Management: manage your inventories, meet customer expectations, control pricing and drive cheaper costs.
  4. Growth means you start outgrowing any fixed costs. This includes start-up costs, sales force, product plants or R&D costs.
  5. Lower Cost of Capital: More certainty means lower risk and you can re-invest, knowing the ROI will be quicker and stronger.

You should be looking at your business through the lens of your brand. Yes, the brand promise sets up how the external community views your brand whether that’s consumers, customers or key influencers. It’s the consistency in delivering the promise that connects consumers with your brand, both emotionally and rationally, letting it become a part of their lives. But equally so, brand becomes an internal beacon to help guide behaviour, decisions, action, structure and the formation of a culture. You should drive your growth and profitability through your brand, with a focus on driving share, enhancing price while managing costs and finding new markets.

Most marketers will tell you that branding is about positioning. I think positioning is a means to driving growth and making money.


To view a copy of How to drive Profits into your Brand, click below:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

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


Positioning 2016.112

Target Market: Why not just target everyone?

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

“You have to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.  You cannot start with the technology and try to figure out where you are going to sell it”                                                      

Steve p. Jobs

I once had a Brand Leader tell me that their target was “18-65, new potential customers, current customers and employees”.  My response was “you’ve left out tourists and prisoners?”  It took me another hour to talk them into potentially focusing their limited investment on a group of people who might be most likely to buy their product. That Brand Leader was a Bank selling first time mortgages.  While there could be an 18-year-old or a 64½ year old that might be buying a mortgage for the first time, it’s actually not likely.  In fact 18-65 is the opposite of a target.  I did manage to talk them into a 28-33 year old target, which gave us the chance to build insights about all the life-changes these consumers were going through (careers, babies, need for more space) that allowed us to develop Advertising Creative around moments that the consumer goes through and we focused the media in places where the 28-33 year olds would most likely see our ads. That would have been missed with the broader 18-65 target range–we would have spread our dollars so thin that no one would have seen it, and we would have spread our message so broadly that no one would have felt any connection to it.

A good brand strategy has four key elements: 

  1. FOCUS all your energy and investment to a particular strategic focal point or purpose. Match up your brand assets to pressure points you can break through, maximizing your limited resources—either financial resources or effort. Make tough choices and choose to be loved by the few rather than tolerated by the many.
  2. You want that EARLY WIN, to kick-start of some momentum. Early Wins are about slicing off parts of the business or population where you can build further. Without the early win, you’ll likely seek out some new strategy even a sub-optimal one. Or someone in management will say “it’s not working”. You don’t want either of those–so the early win helps keep people moving towards the big win.
  3. LEVERAGE everything to gain positional advantage or power that helps exert even greater pressure and gains the tipping point of the business that helps lead to something bigger.  This is where strategy provides that return on Effort–you get more than the effort you are putting into it.
  4. Seeing beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, which is the entrance or a means of access to something even bigger. It could be getting to the masses, changing opinions or behaviours.  Return on Investment or Effort.

Since Every brand has limited resources—marketing dollars, people resources to carry out programs and any share in the market, whether that’s share of voice, shelf, display, recommendations–you never want to waste these resources by spreading them so thinly on everyone.  When you turn to your brand P&L, your CEO and finance people will expect you to deliver an appropriate ROI, or that investment will start to get smaller because they’ll give your dollars to someone else that can deliver a higher ROI.  And yet, even with that, you still refuse to focus? If you had to lift up a car, would you rather 8 football players each standing 3 feet apart or a simple $89 car jack. I’d take the jack because lifting up at a key focal point gives you an early win as you start to watch that car start moving up, the leverage point of the jack holds that 3000-pound car in the air so you can change your tire without even breaking a sweat (the gateway) and you can now drive away. Those poor football players would begin shaking after a few minutes.

Spreading your limited resources across an entire population is cost prohibitive. While targeting everyone “just in case” might safe at first, it’s actually less safe because you never get to see the full impact. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focusing all your attention on those that can love you. Be honest in assessing your brand’s assets and then match those assets up to who is most likely to be motivated enough to buy your brand. That’s when you start to define the target, and then take your resources and do your best to get them to buy.

Who is the Consumer Target and What do they want?

Try to balance the target based on demographics (age, sex, income) and psychographics (behaviours, attitudes and values). Yes, people criticize relying on demographics, but when you go to market, traditional media usually sells their media based on demographics (e.g. TV target is 18-34 years old).  With new media, whether that’s search, display or social media it allows you to focus more on psychographics and match up to whats most important to the consumer. In terms of the creative, I always challenge people to narrow the target down to a 5 year range (eg. 28-33 years old) to give the creative the appropriate tone and feel. For every part of the buying system connected to your brand, take a walk in the shoes of the person who is paying their hard-earned money for the brand you offer, whether that’s a customer, consumer, purchaser, contractor or medical professional. I always think of my consumer as the “most selfish animal on the planet” just to ensure I’m doing the most I can to satisfy that selfishness. After all, the selfishness is well deserved, since they have money spend. Understand and meet those needs.

What do they want?
Consumers don’t care what you can do, until you care about what they need. 
They will only pay you money, if you give them something. That sounds simple. But, keep in mind they will pay you even more money if you give them what they need. And they’ll start to do that over and over again if they get even more from your brand. That means moving your brand from just features up to benefits and all the way up to emotional benefits. Ask consumers what they want. Listen. Don’t start with what you’re selling.   Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself over and over again “so what do I get from that” until you’ve come up with something powerful. Speak in terms of benefit, not features.

And remember, no one ever really wanted a quarter-inch drill; they just needed a quarter-inch hole.  Sell the hole, not the drill. 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

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

Positioning 2016.112




How to write a Monthly Brand Report that measures performance

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

Monthly ReportIn a world of big data and analytics, every brand should have a monthly report to track how the brand is doing through the course of the year. While these reports can feel tedious to write, the 3-4 hours it takes to dig in is a good investment in discipline, knowledge as well as maintaining that touch-feel of managing the brand.

The report serves as a guide for all those across the company to stay on track with the annual plan everyone is committed to delivering. It gives senior management awareness of the grass-root issues, it enables course correction decisions at the senior levels, it exposes weakness and risk. It should carry action statements within the document that serves as a mini-version of the brand plan. And finally, it gives everyone a sense that the brand team has full control of what’s happening on delivering the plan.

Consumption Section

The monthly report should answer the following CONSUMPTION questions:

  1. What’s the one-line story that captures what’s happening on the brand? This is your elevator speech for the CEO.
  2. What’s the dollar, tonnage or unit share, on a 4-week, 12 -week and YTD basis? Focus on the share that the company uses–it can vary. Having all 3-time breaks allows people to see the trends.
  3. How’s the brand doing vs year ago, prior periods, vs the category or vs plan for the year? Speak in terms of both % and share point changes. Theory of relativity allows you to tell the story better.
  4. What’s the competition doing? Trends in the consumption, tracking results related to their brand funnel or potential action that’s rumored in the marketplace.
  5. What are the top 3 drivers of the brand for the month or year? It can be a combination of consumption trends (sku, regions, channel, account, flavor etc), beneath the surface Brand Funnel scores, program results that are contributing to share, competitive moves. Explain how you’re going to continue these going forward.
  6. What are the 3 inhibitors and what are you doing about it? These are things that are holding back the brand. Expose weaknesses you’re seeing in the programs, potential distribution gaps, competitive moves that are beating you, changes in consumer behavior etc. Explain what you plan to do about it, giving the assurance that you are running the brand.


Sales section

The monthly report should answer the following SHIPMENT questions:

  1. What’s the one-line story that captures what’s happening on the brand? This might be the story that you know you could back up when confronted by the VP of sales in the same elevator. If it’s bad news, they will have to answer to the CEO.
  2. What’s the overall sales for the month, the quarter and how will it impact the year-end call? Senior management might adjust their own forecast or may change their short-term investment stance based on that performance.
  3. How are the sales by key account, by skus or by regions? Track on both the month and on a YTD basis. This highlights the strength and exposes weakness.
  4. What are the top 3 drivers of the brand for the month or year? You want to highlight the accounts, skus or regions that are showing the most growth, explain why and tell what you’re going to do to keep these going.
  5. What are the 3 inhibitors and what are you doing about it? These are things that are holding back the brand. While the sales numbers are on the chart, start to explain the top line of what’s happening. Connect with the Account lead, ensuring they buy into the statement you’re about to put. This gives you a chance to stay connected to what’s happening on each account. If your account people aren’t great at getting back to you, saying “I’m about to write a monthly report for the President and I want to know what’s going on at your account”. They’ll get back to you. Also, you need answers in the report to show that you are trying to get as much out of the brand as you can. Both short and long-term.

Monthly Report

Digging in on the data 

As you are analyzing the mounds of data in front of you, you want to dig in everywhere that you can.

  • Start at the 4-week share for the brand overall, compare it to the 12-week, then the 52-week and see the major trend. This is the start of the story. Dig deeper on regions, channels, and skus, figuring out the relative differences you start to see–either on the overall share basis (development index) or on the overall growth rate. Do the same with major competitors. That should give you the basis of your 4-week story and you can begin the document.
  • You next want to focus on the performance for the overall year. With both consumption and share, you want to give management a good forecast on what you think will happen. This can be in consultation with sales and your demand teams. The story has to be consistently told and shared with the senior leaders. If they sense a disconnect, it will look bad on you.
  • If you have good tracking studies, dig in on program tracking (advertising, sampling, in-store, professional recommendations etc) any brand funnel tracking (awareness, trial, repeat, U&A) that can support what’s happening on the consumption and shipments.
  • Drivers and Inhibitors are things that are happening in the market, not things that could happen. Ideally, they should match up to the Annual Brand Plan and the objectives of the brand. Think of these monthly reports like 1/12th of your brand plan–not only highlighting how the brand is doing, but what you are willing to do about it.
  • Keep it all on one page, forcing your writing style to be more direct. A senior leader should be able to digest it in 10 minutes.

Writing the report

When I was an Assistant Brand Manager, I dreaded having to do the Monthly Report. It was a chore that cut into my life. It took all day to find the data. Even all night. I always wondered if anyone would ever read my report. And, I was awful on my first few attempts. I kept thinking if I can just get promoted to Brand Manager, I will no longer have to ever write a Monthly Report ever again. After a year, I became a master of the report. When I did get promoted to Brand Manager, I re-wrote it for my boss. And when I made it up to the VP level, I read everyone’s report in detail, even sending back inquiry questions for each of the 15 brands I had under me. I started to do my own version of the report for the regional President. I dug in the same way I had at the junior levels and crafted the story. Not only did it project a sense of control over my business, it allowed me to sleep better because I knew what was going on with my business. I actually was in control.

I always believe, “You run the brand. Don’t let the brand run you.”

When we get out of control, the brand starts to run us. It takes over.

Here’s our training workshop we run on creating a business review for your brand:

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link:

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link:

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

Graham Robertson signature


8 necessary leadership behaviors to being a great Brand Leader

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

No matter what stage you are in your marketing career, here are eight behaviours that may challenge you to be a great marketer.  Whether you’re in a junior or senior role, my challenge for you is to find more balances within your leadership style.  Avoid getting stuck into a rut by saying “this is how I do it, like me or hate me, but I can’t really change who I am”.   You have to be constantly changing and evolving.   Find your balance of strategy and execution, being analytical versus being creative.  Try to be both.  Bring in your instincts to your well thought plans and don’t always opt for the usual answers but sometimes choose the path that may feel a bit of riskier move.  Revel in ambiguity for a bit longer and see the answer comes to you.  Putting the consumer first allows you to meet their needs and find ways to create a tighter bond with them which will set you up to win in the market.  Listen first, talk second.  Leadership implies follower-ship and if you’re always talking first, I’d challenge you to look behind and see if anyone is following you.

The 8 Behaviors of a Great Brand Leader

  1. Be Consumer Focused:  Everything Starts and Ends With the Consumer in Mind.  Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and think like them.  Steve Jobs said he never needed research, but he must have been amazing at listening, observing and anticipating how the consumer would react.  I’d still recommend you do research, but go beyond the statistics of the research and learn how your consumer thinks.  Whenever I go to focus groups, I watch their faces.  And when the research results come back you always have to ask “so now what do we do”.  The research helps you, but never gives you the exact answer.  Match up the needs of the consumer to your brand assets to figure out your ideal brand positioning.  The best marketers represent the consumer to the brand, NOT the brand to the consumer.  I always believe that consumers are selfish and deservedly so because they have money to spend.  As a consumer, I don’t care what you do until you care about what I need.  Focus on them, not on you.
  2. Follow Your Instincts:  Gut Feel of Marketing:  Listen to your inner thoughts, they are in there.   Too many times people fail because “they went along with it even though they didn’t like it”.  The problem is that sometimes your instincts are hidden away.  You get confused, you feel the pressure to get things done and you’ve got everyone telling you to go for it.  You get scared because you’re worried about getting promoted and want to do the ‘right thing’.  But your gut is telling you it’s just not right.  My rule is simple:  if you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand.  The worst type of marketer is someone who says “I never liked the brief” or “I never liked the ad”.  If you blame your agency or team after the fact, I have a word for people like you:  “useless”.
  3. Revel in Ambiguity:  Be Patient with Ideas.  Never be afraid of an idea and never kill it quickly.  Watch the signals you send that may suck the creativity out of your team.   If you become too predictable to your team, then your work in the market will also become predictable.  Ambiguity and time pressure usually work against each other.  Don’t ever settle for “ok” just because of a deadline.  Always push for great.  What I have found is the longer I can stay comfortable in the “ambiguity zone” the better the ideas get whether it’s the time pressure that forces our thinking to be simpler or whether it’s the performance pressure forces us to push for our best idea, I always say, the longer I can hold my breath, the better the work gets.
  4. Be Organized:  You Run the Brand, Don’t Let the Brand Run You: Be thoroughly organized, well planned and know the pulse of your business.  Every six months, I would find a quiet time to answer five key questions that would help me stay aware: 1) Where are we? 2) Why are we here? 3) Where could we be?  4) How can we get there? and 5) What do we have to do to get started?   In an odd way, the more planning you do, the more agile you’ll be, because you’ll know when it’s ok to “go off plan”  Stay in Control:  Hit the Deadlines, don’t give the appearance that you’re not in control. We have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other.  Know Your Business and don’t get caught off-guard.  Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.  Enjoy doing the monthly report because it makes you the most knowledgeable about the brand.   Stay conceptual; avoid getting stuck in the pennies or decimals.Process should enable us, not hinder us:  A good process can force your thinking towards a solution.  If it restricts your thinking, it’s not a good process.  But if it means, you free up your time for strategic thinking, instead of format thinking, we’ll move much faster.
  5. Manage your Boss:  Be the Brand Leader not the Follower The more you keep your boss informed the more rope they may give you.   If they don’t know what you’re doing, they may clamp down and micro-manage you. . Ensure a policy of open communication with no surprises:  Make sure you keep your team informed and involved.  Keep senior management informed.  You must be the champion of the brand.  The best ideas are those that erupt out from the brand team–not from a top down perspective.  You have to be a self-starter that pushes your idea through the system, in the face of resistance or doubt.  And you will meet resistance from so many people in the system.  All the best work I ever did met a large degree of resistance.  You have to anticipate this and work through it.  One subtlety to ownership is your tone. When you don’t know something, speak in an “asking way” and openly seek out the wisdom and advice of your agency, your manager or your peers.  Put your ego aside and listen.  But equally, when you do know the answer, speak in a “telling way” that gets others to follow you, including senior management.
  6. Speed, Simplicity and Self Confidence:  a) Speed:  We don’t do things fast for the sake of it; we do things fast so we can take advantage of opportunities that have a window.  If you recognize an opportunity, realize that others are also recognizing the same opportunity.  So speed to market can enable you to win before they get there.  Also, doing things fast does not mean sloppy.  b) Simplicity: I’ve always said, “If you have a complex answer to something, odds are you are wrong”.  Keep it simple enough to explain, and so that the people who need to execute our ideas can really execute them.  c) Self Confidence:  As the brand leader, speak your mind.  After all, we are all just walking opinions.  Find a way within your leadership style to engage your team, agency or your boss in a debate to get to better answers.
  7. Actively Listen: As a brand leader, you should be constantly listening, not trying to be the smartest person in the room.  When you tell an agency or employee what to do, there is only one answer you’ll hear:  YES and the conversation is over.  But when you ask an agency or employee, you might hear YES, NO or MAYBE and the conversation is just beginning.   You’ll also find that by listening, you can learn from all the other disciplines–finance, sales, production, R&D and HR.
  8. Focus on the People and the Results will come: The formula is simple:  the better the people, the better the work and in turn the better the results.  You should have a regular review of the talent with your directors.  I’d encourage you to ensure there’s a systemic way to get feedback to everyone on the team, preferably on a quarterly basis.  Waiting for the annual review is way too late and almost negligent as a leader.  Your people have the potential to grow with feedback.   But without feedback, they’ll be confused and even frustrated.  You should invest in training and development.  Marketing Training is not just on the job, but also in the classroom to challenge their thinking and give them added skills to be better in their jobs.  Marketing fundamentals matter.  And the classic fundamentals are falling, whether it is strategic thinking, writing a brand plan, writing a creative brief or judging great advertising.  People are NOT getting the same development they did in prior generations.  Investing in training, not only makes them better, but it is also motivating for them to know that you are investing in them.  And that helps drive retention and commitment into producing great work and driving results.  Use every moment as a potential teaching moment for helping your team get better.

Everyone has a gap against one or more of these leadership areas.  No one is perfect.  The real question is what are you willing to do to counter that gap.  

To read more about how you can manage your career, follow the story below (which can be downloaded and printed)


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How to run a brand with the Brand Leader front and center

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

People outside of marketing tend to think marketing is rather easy.
It’s just a bunch of TV ads, sell sheets, twitter accounts, new products and spending endless money without any ROI or responsibility.  People debate the value of marketing. During a downturn, it is the first thing that gets cut. Some companies have even begun separating product from brand–what a mistake. The two have to be one, not two. Other companies are sales led, selling what they have, with marketing following what sales needs.  And there’s even recent debate going on that the CEO should drive the brand. The CEO should focus on being the CEO. Why hire talented, high-priced marketers if you’re just going to over-rule them and micro-manage the brand. Shouldn’t the CEO stick to doing their own job, driving the results for the shareholders and inspiring greatness for everyone in the company.

Instead of driving marketing down, it is time to build Brand Management back up and placing them front and centre within your organization. Everything in the company should feed off the Brand DNA.  The Brand DNA (some call it the Brand Essence) is the most succinct definition of the Brand.  For Volvo, it’s Safety, while BMW might be Performance and Mercedes is Luxury. The tool I use to determine a Brand’s DNA revolves around the Brand’s personality, the products and services the brand provides, the internal beacons that people internally rally around when thinking about the brand and consumer views of the Brand. What we normally do is brainstorm 3-4 words in each section and then looking collectively begin to frame the Brand’s DNA with a few words or a phrase to which the brand can stand behind.


The Brand DNA should help frame 1) Brand Plan that drives the business for the upcoming year or the next 5 years 2) Brand Positioning that connects to the consumer through marketing communications 3) Customer Value Proposition that links the consumer needs to the benefits of the brand 4) Go-To-Market strategy that frames the distribution and the selling process 5) Cultural Beacons that help define the brand internally through values, inspiration and challenge and finally 6) Business Results, with each brand offering a unique way that it makes money. Each of these six needs feed off the Brand DNA, look to the definition as a guideline for how to align to the brand.  

When you begin to blow this out one step further, you can start to see where the complexity comes into play with each of the six areas have their own needs that should still feed off that Brand DNA.

  • The planning area should help to frame the Brand Plan which is a combination of a one year Brand Plan and a 3-5 year strategic plan. The Vision and Mission provide the future direction, objectives align to the Business needs and Brand Funnel objectives and Strategies and Tactics help to drive towards those objectives.  Included as well should be a Calendar and Budgets. For a tutorial on how to write a Brand Plan, click on the following link:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  • From the DNA, map out a positioning statement that can help frame the Marketing Communications plan. That includes the creative big idea, the media mix, earned media (PR, Events) social media, key influencers (e.g. Doctors or Contractors or Bloggers).  As well, the positioning frames the identity which could include logo, language, look and feel and brand book. My hope is that you don’t change this very often. Looking at the complexity of the Brand Management system outlined here, it baffles me that Brands facing tough times reach for changing their logo so quickly when so many other factors could be driving the issues. For a tutorial on writing Creative Briefs, click on:  How to Write an Effective Creative Brief
  • The Go-To-Market plan should also feed off the Brand DNA and come out of the Brand Plan. The Distribution strategy and needs should match up to the needs of the brand, including decisions around Key Account focus, pricing, sku mix, promotion and the possible role of new products. In a fast-moving category like cereal or gum, or a high technology driving category like computers, phones or TVs, both share a high need for product innovation. For brands that require in store selling, you should also include the In-store experience which could be demonstration, signage or trial as well as possible selling messages for sales people on the floor of the distribution channel. These messages should feed directly from the brand messages.
  • The Customer Value Proposition outlines the relationship of the consumer needs to the Benefits offered by the Brand. First, map out the 2-3 consumer insights that epitomize the needs of your consumer target. When you list out the main features that you can offer, you’ll start to begin to match up these features into a zone where you see benefits. With each feature, put yourself in the shoes of your consumer and say “so what do I get” and push yourself until the benefits come alive.  Remember, your consumer doesn’t care what you do until you begin caring what they need.  Try to find a balance of rational (thinking) and emotional (feeling) benefits and provide those to everyone that might touch the brand. Within this area, you should track insights, target segments, use a brand review to find the changes within the consumer. The brand funnel provides a great tool for measuring brand health with Awareness, Consideration, Trial, Purchase, Repeat and Loyalty. To me, it’s like keeping track of your internal health such as Blood Pressure or Cholesterol scores.
  • The R&D plan should feed off the Brand DNA and develop products that match the brand.  Too many times, R&D is in their own world, trying to invent things that have nothing to do with where the brand sits.  They expect marketing to be able to sell their inventions.  Even in a technology driven business, Apple is driven first by the consumer.  Steve Jobs really understood that you don’t just sell what you have.
  • Brand also drives the Culture and the DNA should provide a beacon for the People to follow.  The brand story told within the company is even more important than what you might tell the market through your advertising.    Talent management means hiring the right people and providing the right training.   Too many companies are cutting back on training.   Remember that better people produce better work that drives better results.   Keep investing in your people and the business results will come.  Empower your people to get the most from their ideas.  Leverage values, inspirational touch points and processes to inspire and challenge them on achieving greatness.
  • Brand drives the Business Results.  Slide1 The more loved a brand, the more tightly the connection it has with their consumers.  This connection becomes a source of power that the brand can wield in the market to drive higher growth rate and profitability.   The Brand Leader is responsible for driving the P&L, driving sales and share, managing the forecast and costs for an efficiently run brand.  The Brand Leader must figure out the levers of the P&L it can use to drive more profits.  For a tutorial on driving profits through your brand, click on:  How to Drive Profits through Your Brand

Putting the Brand Leader front and centre will allow you to leverage the Brand DNA into each of the areas of your business, whether that’s marketing, sales, R&D, finance or human resources.  Brand should be at the centre of this hub, with each area looking to the Brand DNA as a beacon of how they can do their job most effectively in helping the brand drive long-term growth and profitability.

To read more on this subject, read the following presentation:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

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

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