Everything that a brand leader must know how to do

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers, Most Read Stories

It amazes me how few people understand what a marketer really does. Even those who work beside us, who might work in sales or at our agency. Plenty of times, I have stopped them and asked, “do you know what we do?” and their answer kinda shocked me. Wait, it scared me. The ideal brand leader has to be a well-rounded generalist, knowing enough about everything they come in contact with, but never an expert. 

Marketers need to know how to think, define, plan, execute and analyze with the best of them. Best of all, while the brand leaders don’t really know how to do anything, they are looked upon to make every decision. No one else at the table wants to or can decide. 

Brand Manager requirements

Everything you must know how to do

How to win with smart strategic thinking

Challenge yourself to think strategically, to prompt you to ask the right questions before you reach for solutions. Our holistic look at strategy pushes you to assess your brand’s core strength, the relationship with consumers, competitive stance you take, and business situation. You need to be capable of leading a well-thought strategic discussion across your organization or winning any strategic argument with your management team. Learn to apply your vision, to focus your resources on identified opportunities that create a market impact you can transform into a performance result for your brand. 

How to define a winning brand positioning

Start off by understanding how to define and focus on an ideal consumer target profile, framed with need states, consumer insights and the consumer enemies. Take a consumer centric approach to turn brand features into functional and emotional benefits. Use our innovation benefit cheat sheets to make decisions. Learn how to find a winning brand positioning space that is own-able and motivating to consumers. Develop a brand idea that can focus every everyone who works on your brand. You will learn to write brand concepts, brand stories, and a credo. 

How to build a brand plan everyone can follow

We teach the best-in-class methods for coming up with all elements of a smart brand plan including the vision, purpose, goals, issues, strategies, and tactics. You need to know how to turn strategic thinking into smart strategic objective statements for the brand plan. With our training program, you will walk away with brand plan templates that will help you build a brand plan presentation you can use for your senior management and across organization. We show how to develop smart execution plans that delivers against the brand strategies, including a brand communications plan, innovation plan and sales plans

brand plan template

How to inspire creative marketing execution

You need to know how to write strategic, focused and thorough creative briefs that will create great work from experts. You need to be able to run the project management of the process so you will be able to lead all marketing execution projects on brand communication, innovation, selling or experience. You need to learn to inspire greatness from teams of experts at execution agencies or throughout your organization. Engage your instincts to judge marketing execution and make smart marketing execution decisions that will tighten the bond with consumers.

How to use analytics to uncover brand issues

You have to understand all sources of brand data, including market share, brand funnel, consumption, tracking results, and financials. Challenge yourself on the principles of analytics so you dig deep into data, draws comparisons and builds a story toward the business conclusion. You need to be able to lead a best-in-class deep-dive business review that looks at the marketplace, consumers, channel, competitors and the brand. We provide templates for the deep-dive business review, and monthly performance reports that will help trigger new key issues and strategic thinking.

Brand training

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to write integrated marketing plans

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers, Most Read Stories

We believe a good marketing plan helps make decisions to deploy the resources and provide a roadmap for everyone who works on the brand. You will learn how to write each component of the marketing plan, looking at brand vision, purpose, values, goals, key Issues, strategies, and tactics. We provide marketing plan definitions and marketing plan examples to inspire you for how to write each component. Our marketing plan workshop allows marketers to try each concept on their brand. We provide hands-on coaching and feedback to challenge their plans. 

Below, I will show you part of our marketing plan process that we lay out in our Beloved Brands book.

We offer unique formats for a marketing-plan-on-a-page and long-range strategic roadmaps. And then, we show how to build marketing execution plans. We look at a marketing communications plan, innovation plan, sales plan, and experiential plan. Your marketing plan will help give a strategic direction to everyone in your organization.

The annual marketing plan

I first came up with this “plan-on a page” marketing plan template when I led a team with 15 brands. It helped me see the big picture quickly, rather than having to hunt through a big thick binder. Also, the sales team appreciated the ability to see the entire plan on one page quickly. Most salespeople also had 15 brands to manage with each of their customers. Everyone who works on the brand should receive the one-page marketing plan. And they should keep it close by to steer their day-to-day decisions.

  • The analysis section lays out the summary from the deep-dive business review. Provide an overview of the top three points, which envelop what is driving your brand’s growth, what is inhibiting your brand’s growth, which threats could hurt your brand and what opportunities your brand faces.
  • The key issues and strategies section focuses on the top three issues getting in the way of achieving your vision, which you should put in question format. And the strategic solutions are the answers that match up to each of those questions. Set goals to measure your brand’s performance against each strategy.
  • The marketing execution section maps out the specific plans for each of the chosen execution areas that line up to most essential consumer touchpoints.

Marketing Plan Definitions

Vision:

The vision should answer the question, “Where could we be?” Put a stake in the ground that describes an ideal state for your future. It should be able to last for five to 10 years. The vision gives everyone clear direction. Write in a way that scares you a little and excites you a lot.

Brand purpose:

The purpose has to answer the question, “Why does your brand exist?” It’s the underlying personal motivation for why you do what you do. The purpose is a powerful way to connect with employees and consumers, giving your brand a soul. 

Values:

The values you choose should answer, “What do you stand for?” Your values should guide you and shape the organization’s standards, beliefs, behaviors, expectations, and motivations. A brand must consistently deliver each value.

Goals:

Your goals should answer, “What will you achieve?” The specific measures can include consumer behavioral changes, metrics of crucial programs, in-market performance targets, financial results, or milestones on the pathway to the vision. You can use these goals to set up a brand dashboard or scoreboard.

Situation analysis:

Use your deep-dive business review to answer, “Where are we?” Your analysis must summarize the drivers and inhibitors currently facing the brand, and the future threats and untapped opportunities.

Key issues:

The key issues answer the question, “Why are we here?” Look at what is getting in your way of achieving your brand vision. Ask the issues as questions, to set up the challenges to the strategies as the answer to each issue.

Marketing strategy:

Your strategy decisions must answer, “How can we get there?” Your choices depend on market opportunities you see with consumers, competitors, or situations. Strategies must provide clear marching orders that define the strategic program you are investing in, the focused opportunity, the desired market impact and the payback in a performance result that benefits the branded business.  

Tactics:

The tactics answer, “What do we need to do?” Framed entirely by strategy, tactics turn into action plans with clear marching orders to your teams. Decide on which activities to invest in to stay on track with your vision while delivering the highest ROI and the highest ROE for your branded business.

Turning your key issues into a marketing strategy

Lay out the key issues that answer, “Why are we here?” by taking the summary findings of the deep-dive analysis and drawing out the significant issues in the way of achieving your stated brand vision.A great way to find the issues is to brainstorm up to 30 things in the way of your vision. Then, narrow down your list to the top 3-5 significant themes you see. Take the themes and begin to write the top issues in a rhetorical, strategic question format to prompt a few different strategic options for how to solve each issue. Spend serious thinking time on these questions because the better the strategic question you ask, the better the strategic answer you will get. 

Marketing Plan example of using the four strategic questions to focus the brand’s key issues

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

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

Writing strategic objective statements

You should start off by writing your strategic objective statement using the four components of the a + b + c + d model outlined in our Beloved Brands book. We go through four types of strategy, including your core strength, consumer strategy, competitive strategy and your brand situation.

a) The statement calls out the investment into a strategic program, with crystal clear marching orders to the team, leaving no room for doubt, confusion, or hesitation. 

b) You should provide a focused opportunity, which is the breakthrough point where the brand will exert pressure to create a market impact.  

c) You must have a specific desired market impact to outline the market stakeholder you will attempt to move, whether it is consumers, sales channels, competitors, or influencers.

d) Finally, you need a specific performance result, linking the market impact to a specific result on the brand, either making the brand more powerful or more profitable.

Here are marketing plan examples of strategic objective statements. You’ll see how we use the a + b + c +d approach for the various types of strategies.

Writing your strategy statements

The method I use creates very long strategic objective statement first, before writing a pithier version of the strategic statement. You will notice the wording feels quite chunky and far too long. Once you have three steadfast strategic objective statements, you can narrow them down to a headline. 

How to lay out each marketing strategy

Your effort in writing these clunky statements will not go to waste. Once you have decided on your top three strategies, you can lay out a specific slide to explain each strategy within your presentation. 

  • Include the clunky strategic objective statement (told you it would not go to waste). 
  • The goals measure the ideal result of this strategy.
  • Then, list three tactical programs, where you will invest your resources. 
  • I also insert a “watch out statement” to show I am proactively addressing any issue I feel could derail my presentation.

Brand Communications Plan

The brand communications plan answers seven questions. These questions steer and inspire the creation of the brand story work, so the brand communications work will establish your brand positioning, and motivate consumers to see, think, feel, do, or influence. The plan must answer the following questions: 

  1. What do we need our advertising to do? (Brand strategic objective statement)
  2. Who is in our desired consumer target? (Most motivated people to buy what we do)
  3. What are we selling? (Our main consumer benefit we stand behind) 
  4. Why should they believe us? (Support points to back up the main benefit) 
  5. What is our organizing brand idea? (Brand soul, essence or DNA for the brand)
  6. What do we want people to see, think, feel, do, or influence? (Desired consumer response)
  7. Where will our consumer be most receptive to see and act upon our message? (Media plan)

Innovation Plan

Use your brand idea to guide the product development team to manage innovation ideas at the exploratory stage, (beyond five years), pipeline ideas (two to five years) and go-to-market launch plans (within the next two years). As the brand leader, you need to influence, manage, and even direct your product development team to ensure they focus on the brand strategy. 

Sales and Retail Plan

Brand leaders should work side-by-side with the sales team to manage the consumer through the purchase moment. The brand plan should guide the sales team on specific strategy and goals. Given that your sales team owns the selling execution, you must gain the sales team’s alignment and buy-in on the best ways to execute your brand’s strategy through direct selling, retailer management, and e-commerce options. The programs include pricing, distribution focus, shelf management, promotional spending, customer marketing, customer analytics, and specific promotional tools.

Use a “triple win” to find the ideal retail programs, which match up with wins for your channel customer, your shared consumer, and your brand. Marketers must understand that sales leaders work through relationships, and need to balance the strategies of their customer with the desired strategies of your brand. Your channel customers are trying to win in their market, satisfying a base of their consumers through your brands, while battling competitors who you may also be going through that customer. Your most successful programs will provide a win for your channel customer, as you will get much more support for your program. 

Activity Grid

Your brand plan should include an activity calendar to guide everyone who will execute the plan, so everyone can see how the execution elements fit. It allows you to manage the finances of the organization and the people who will deliver the work. 

Get our ideal Brand Plan template in a downloadable PowerPoint file

  • Includes ideal slides for vision, purpose, analysis, key issues, strategies, brand positioning statement, and execution plans.
  • Provides formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own brand plan.
  • Access to our one-page brand plan and our one-page Brand Strategy Roadmap.

Explore all our brand management templates

Use your brand idea to steer everyone who works on the brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers, Most Read Stories

Everyone seems to call the short-form description by different names; brand DNA, big idea, brand essence or shout from the mountain. I keep it simple by calling it the brand idea. The challenge is that it must be interesting, simple, unique, inspiring, motivating, and ownable.

 

When your brand idea is interesting and simple, it helps the brand gain quick entry into the consumer’s mind, so they will want to engage and learn more about the brand. With the consumer being bombarded by 5,000 brand messages every day, the brand only has 7-seconds to connect, or else consumers will move on. 

When the brand idea is unique and own-able, it stands out from the clutter, and the brand can see enough potential to build their entire business around the idea. When it is motivating to consumers, the brand gains an ability to move consumers to see, think, feel, or act in positive ways that benefit the brand.

Use your brand idea to express your inner brand soul

The brand idea must represent the inner brand soul of everyone who works on the brand, inspiring employees to deliver the brand promise and amazing experiences. Finally, the it must be ownable, so no other competitor can infringe on your space, and you can confidently build your brand reputation over time.

The brand idea blueprint

I created a brand idea blueprint with five ideas that surround it.

On the internal brand soul side, describe the products and services, as well as the cultural inspiration, which is the internal rallying cry to everyone who works on the brand. On the external brand reputation side, define the ideal consumer reputation and the reputation among necessary influencers or partners. The brand role acts as a bridge between the internal and external sides.

  • Products and services: What is the focused point of difference your products or services can win on because they meet the consumer’s needs and separate your brand from competitors?
  • Consumer reputation: What is the desired reputation of your brand, which attracts, excites, engages, and motivates consumers to think, feel, and purchase your brand?
  • Cultural inspiration: What is the internal rallying cry that reflects your brand’s purpose, values, motivations, and will inspire, challenge, and guide your culture?
  • Influencer reputation: Who are the key influencers and potential partners who impact the brand? What is their view of the brand, which would make them recommend or partner with your brand?
  • Brand role (archetype): What is the link between the internal sound and the external reputation?

How to find your brand idea

Step 1: Keywords brainstorm for each of the five areas

With a cross-functional team working on the brand, start off with a brainstorm of keywords for each of the five areas around the brand idea. Expose the team to the work you have done on the brand positioning statement, including details on the target profile, consumer benefits ladder work, and the consumer benefits sort. Ask participants to bring their knowledge, wisdom, and opinions from where they sit within the organization.The first step is generating 15-20 words that describe each of the five areas.

Step 2: Turn keywords into key phrases for each of the five areas

Next, get the team to vote to narrow down the list to the best 3-5 words for each section. You will begin to see certain themes and keywords. Take those selected words and build phrases to summarize each section.

Step 3: Summarize it all to create a brand idea

Once you have phrases for all five areas, the team should feel inspired to use their creative energy to come up with the brand idea. Find a summary statement that captures everything around the circle. Try to get a few different options you can test with both consumers and employees.

The brand idea should steer everyone who works behind the scenes of the brand.

Brand leaders must manage the consistent delivery to every consumer touchpoint. Whether people are in management, customer service, sales, HR, operations, or an outside agency, everyone should be looking to the brand idea to guide and focus their decisions.

 

With old-school marketing, the brand would advertise on TV to drive awareness and interest, use bright, bold packaging in store with reinforced messages to close the sale. If the product satisfied consumers’ needs, they would repeat and build the brand into their day-to-day routines.

Today’s market is a cluttered mess. 

The consumer is bombarded with brand messages all day, and inundated with more information from influencers, friends, experts, critics, and competitors. While the internet makes shopping easier, consumers must now filter out tons of information daily. Moreover, the consumer’s shopping patterns have gone from a simple, linear purchase pattern into complex, cluttered chaos.

Five main touchpoints reach consumers, including the brand promise, brand story, innovation, purchase moment, and consumer experience. Regardless of the order, they reach the consumer; if the brand does not deliver a consistent message, the consumer will be confused and likely shut out that brand. While brands cannot control what order each touchpoint reaches the consumer, they can undoubtedly align each of those touchpoints under the brand idea.

 

Use the brand idea to steer everyone who works on the brand

The best brands consistently deliver. Use a cross-functional team, including salespeople, R&D, human resources, finance, and operations. Their participation is one way to gain their buy-in. But that’s not where it stops. 

Use your internal brand communications tools to drive a shared definition. Get everyone to articulate how their role delivers the idea. Give the external and internal brand story equal importance to the consumer experience you create for your brand.

Everyone who works on the brand should use the idea as inspiration, and to guide decisions and activities across every function of your organization. It is the people within the brand organization who will deliver the brand idea to the consumer. Everyone needs a common understanding of and talking points for the brand.

When you work on a brand that leads to the customer experience, your operations people will be responsible for the face-to-face delivery of your brand to the consumer. Develop a list of service values, behaviors, and processes to deliver the brand idea throughout your organization. 

Build a brand credo document

Having spent time at Johnson & Johnson, I was lucky to see how their credo document has become an essential part of the culture of the organization. Not only does it permeate throughout the company but you will also likely hear it quoted in meetings on a daily basis. It is a beautifully written document and ahead of its time.

Get our Brand Positioning template

  • Our Brand Positioning PowerPoint file includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own business review.
  • Include slides for target profile, brand positioning statement, brand idea, brand concept, brand values, brand story, brand credo, and a creative brief.
  • Everything is organized and ready for your input.

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

To purchase our Beloved Brands playbook, click on the icon where you buy your books 

Build your marketing skills with our post on How to write a Brand Concept

One of the most important skills marketers need to know is the fundamentals of writing a brand concept. Read our step-by-step process for how to create a brand concept that brings your brand to life. Learn how to lay out the brand concept with the brand idea, consumer insights, main message, support points and call-to-action. 

How to lead a deep-dive business review on your brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers, Most Read Stories

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.      

The deep-dive business review takes a 360-degree look at your brand

  1. 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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Brand: Analyze your brand through the lens of consumers, customers, competitors, and employees. Use brand funnel data, market research, marketing program tracking results, pricing analysis, distribution gaps, and financial analysis. Focus on managing your brand’s health and wealth.

Summarize your deep-dive business review to set up your brand plan

  • What’s driving growth? The top factors of strength, positional power, or market inertia, which have a proven link to driving your brand’s growth. Your plan should continue to fuel these growth drivers.
  • What’s inhibiting growth? The most significant factors of weakness, unaddressed gaps, or market friction you can prove to be holding back your brand’s growth. Your plan should focus on reducing or reversing these inhibitors to growth. 
  • Opportunities for growth: Look at specific untapped areas in the market, which could fuel your brand’s future growth, based on unfulfilled consumer needs, new technologies on the horizon, potential regulation changes, new distribution channels, or the removal of trade barriers. Your plan should take advantage of these opportunities in the future.  
  • Threats to future growth: Changing circumstances, including consumer needs, new technologies, competitive activity, distribution changes, or potential barriers, which create potential risks to your brand’s growth. Build your plan to minimize the impact of these risks.

Example of a deep-dive business review using Gray's Cookies

Putting together your deep-dive business review

This process assumes you will put together a presentation of 15-20 slides for your management team. 

Each of the five sections you go deep on should have 3-5 ideal slides. The conclusion statement at the top of each slide gets carried forward to a summary page for each of the five sections. You then draw out an overall conclusion statement for that section. You will have five conclusion statements, which you bring to the front of your presentation to form an overall summary page. From there, you draw out one major brand challenge you are seeing in the deep dive.

How to build each of the five analytical sections of the deep-dive business review

A: For each of the five sections of your deep dive business review, use all the data you have dug into to draw out the three hypothetical conclusions. Then build one ideal slide for each conclusion, adding the 2-3 critical support points, and layer in the supporting visual charts. This type of analysis is an iterative process where you have to keep modifying the conclusion headline and the support points to ensure they work together.

B: Once you have nailed the conclusion headline for each page, you should build a summary chart for each of the five sections, which takes those three conclusion statements and builds a section conclusion statement. The example above shows how to do it for the category, which you can replicate for the consumer, channels, competitors, and the brand. 

Summarizing the deep-dive business review

C: For each of the five sections, take each section conclusion statement, move them to an overall business review summary slide, and draw one big summary statement for each of the five sections. 

D: Use those section conclusion statements to draw out an overall business review major issue, which summarizes everything in the analysis.C

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.

Read more about brand funnels by clicking here

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

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

How to manage your marketing career from ABM to CMO

At every level of your marketing career, you have to adjust to the new role. Brand Managers fail when they keep acting like ABMs and Directors fail when they keep acting like Brand Managers and VPs fail when they don’t know what to do.  In a classic marketing team, the four key roles are Assistant Brand Manager up to Brand Manager then up to Marketing Director and on to the VP/CMO role.

How to use a brand strategy roadmap to align and focus everyone

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers, Most Read Stories

Every brand should have a brand strategy roadmap that includes the vision, purpose, values, key issues, strategies, and tactics. As well, it should layer in the brand idea to deliver a consistent brand across the five consumer touchpoints.

Have you ever noticed people who say, “We need to get everyone on the same page” rarely have anything written down on one page? Moreover, the same people who use the term “fewer bigger bets” are fans of little projects that deplete resources. 

To ensure you have a long-range plan everyone can follow, you should get your brand strategy roadmap on one page. And, some will also refer to this as a strategic plan, or even a strat plan.

Our brand strategy roadmap combines long-range plan elements with our brand idea map

Start with a rough draft with your long-range plan elements

Vision: 

The vision in the brand strategy roadmap should answer the question, “Where could we be?” Put a stake in the ground that describes an ideal state for your future. It should be able to last for five to 10 years. The vision gives everyone clear direction. It should motivate the team, written in a way that scares you a little and excites you a lot.

Brand purpose: 

The purpose has to answer the question, “Why does your brand exist?” It’s the underlying personal motivation for why you do what you do. Furthermore, the purpose is a powerful way to connect with employees and consumers, giving your brand a soul.

Values: 

The values you choose should answer, “What do you stand for?” Your values should guide you and shape the organization’s standards. They should connect your beliefs, behaviors, expectations, and motivations. A brand must consistently deliver each value.

Goals: 

Your goals in the brand strategy roadmap should answer, “What will you achieve?” The specific measures can include consumer behavioral changes, metrics of crucial programs, in-market performance targets, financial results, or milestones on the pathway to the vision. These goals to set up a brand dashboard or scoreboard.

Situation analysis: 

Use your deep-dive business review to answer, “Where are we?” Your analysis must summarize the drivers and inhibitors currently facing the brand, and the future threats and untapped opportunities. 

Key issues: 

The key issues answer the question, “Why are we here?” Look at what is getting in your way of achieving your brand vision. Ask the issues as questions, to set up the challenges to the strategies as the answer to each issue.

Strategies: 

Your strategy decisions must answer, “How can we get there?” Your choices depend on market opportunities you see with consumers, competitors, or situations. Strategies must provide clear marching orders. They define the strategic program you are investing in, the focused opportunity, the desired market impact and the payback in a performance result that benefits the branded business.

Tactics: 

The tactics answer, “What do we need to do?” Framed entirely by strategy, tactics turn into action plans with clear marching orders to your teams. Decide on which activities to invest in to stay on track with your vision. They must deliver the highest ROI (return on investment) and the highest ROE (return on effort).

Align the brand idea across five consumer touchpoints

Today’s market is a cluttered mess. The consumer is bombarded with brand messages all day, and inundated with more information from influencers, friends, experts, critics, and competitors. While the internet makes shopping easier, consumers must now filter out tons of information daily. Moreover, the consumer’s shopping patterns have gone from a simple, linear purchase pattern into complex, cluttered chaos.

Use the brand idea as an organizing tool

Five main touchpoints reach consumers, including the brand promise, brand story, innovation, purchase moment, and consumer experience. Regardless of the order, they reach the consumer; if the brand does not deliver a consistent message, the consumer will be confused and likely shut out that brand.strategic plan. While brands cannot control what order each touchpoint reaches the consumer, they can undoubtedly align each of those touchpoints under the brand idea.

Brand promise: 

Use the brand idea to inspire a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors. Position your brand as better, different, or cheaper.

Brand story: 

The brand story must come to life to motivate consumers to think, feel, or act while it works establishes the ideal brand’s reputation to be held in the minds and hearts of the consumer. The brand story aligns all brand communications across all media options.

Innovation: 

Build a fundamentally sound product, staying at the forefront of trends and technology to deliver innovation. Furthermore, steer the product development teams to ensure they remain true to the brand idea.

Purchase moment: 

The brand idea must move consumers along the purchase journey to the final purchase decision. The brand idea aligns the sales team and sets up retail channels. 

Consumer experience: 

Turn the usage into a consumer experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of the consumer’s day. The brand idea guides the culture of everyone behind the brand who deliver the experience.

The brand strategy roadmap aligns and focuses everyone

Always look at a long-range plan as an opportunity to make decisions on how to allocate your brand’s limited resources. Apply those resourses to the smartest ideas that will drive the highest return. Make the best financial investment choices. Furthermore, make the best decisions on how to deploy your people.

B2B example of a Brand Strategy Roadmap

Healthcare example of our Brand Strategy Roadmap

Beloved Brands is the playbook to keep at your fingertips

Our readers tell us they reach for Beloved Brands a few times each week as a reference toolkit to help them with the day-to-day management of their brand. 

With Beloved Brands, we want to challenge you with questions that get you to think differently about your brand strategy. Our process for defining your brand positioning will open your mind to new possibilities for how you see your brand. 

We will show you how to write a brand plan that everyone can follow and knows precisely how they can contribute to your brand’s success. 

We will show you how to run the creative execution process, show you how to write an inspiring brief, and make decisions to find both smart and breakthrough advertising. 

You will learn new methods to analyze the performance of your brand with a deep-dive business review. 

Over 90% of our Amazon reviews receive five-star ratings, and Beloved Brands has spent numerous weeks as a #1 bestseller in brand management. 

Explore all our brand management templates

How to use brand funnel analysis to assess your brand’s health

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers, Most Read Stories

A classic brand funnel would measure awareness, familiar, consider, purchase, repeat and loyal. They tell you where your brand is now, and when analyzed with intelligence, brand funnels can provide hints as to  where you can go next. The brand funnel analysis can help you determine where your brand sits on the brand love curve, which outlines how consumers build a bond with a brand, as they move through five stages: unknown, indifferent, like it, love it, and onto the beloved brand status. Our brand love curve sets up the brand strategy of where to go next.

Indifferent brands have very skinny brand funnels with low awareness, low purchase and negligible repeat and loyalty. Brands that are liked but not loved, have high awareness and sales, without an emotional connection, they almost have no loyalty. And finally, at the beloved brands had the most robust brand funnels, with strong awareness, purchase, repeat and loyalty scores. 

Brand funnel analysis

Every brand should understand the details of its brand funnel, the best tool for measuring your brand’s underlying health. It is the equivalent to knowing your blood pressure or cholesterol scores. A classic brand funnel should measure awareness, familiarity, consideration, purchase, repeat, and loyalty. At the very least, you should measure awareness, purchase, and repeat. It is not just about understanding the absolute scores on the funnel but rather the ratios that explain how good of a job you are doing in moving consumers from one stage of the funnel to the next. 

I will show you how the robustness of your brand’s funnel explains where your brand sits on the brand love curve. The broader the funnel, the better connected your brand is with consumers.


Absolute funnel scores

Brand funnel ratios

click to expand either diagram to see details

Brand funnel analysis using absolute scores

  • A: On the chart above, the first thing to do is look at the absolute brand funnel scores. There are many types of comparisons you can do, whether you compare to last year, competitors, or category norms. Then look at the brand funnel ratios, which is the percentage score for how well your brand can convert consumers from one stage of the funnel to the next. To create ratios, divide the absolute score by the score above it on the funnel. In the example above, take the familiar score of 87% and divide it by the awareness score of 93% to determine a conversion ratio of 91%. This means 91% of aware consumers are familiar
  • B: For the chart below, lay out the absolute scores and the ratios in a horizontal way to allow a comparison. You will notice these are the same scores as “A” and “B” in the previous chart. The crucial numbers for Gray’s Cookies are the ratios of 91%, 94%, 77%, 25%, and 12% at the top of the chart. Then bring in a close competitor (Devon’s) with their absolute and ratios scores to allow a direct comparison.

Brand funnel analysis using ratios

  • C: Then find the ratio gaps by subtracting the competitor’s ratio scores from your brand’s ratio scores. In the example, the first ratio gap is -7% ratio gap (91% – 98%) which means Devon’s does a 7% better job in converting consumers from awareness to familiar than Gray’s Cookies. 
  • D: As you create ratio gaps along the bottom, you can see where your ratio is either stronger or weaker than the comparison brand. Finally, start analyzing the significant gaps between the two brands and tell a strategic story to explain each gap. Looking at the example, you can see Gray’s and Devon’s have similar scores at the top part of the funnel, but Gray’s starts to show real weakness (-23% and -51% gap) as it moves to repeat and loyalty. You need to address and fix these gaps with your brand plan.

The Brand Love Curve

It takes a strategic mind to figure out brand love.

  • For new brands, they were completely “unknown” to consumers. Unless there were genuinely compelling messages, consumers would walk past without even looking. To achieve some success, the priority for these brands is to get noticed within the clutter of the market.  
  • At the “indifferent” stage, consumers feel O.K. about the brand, similar to how they usually feel about commodities, like fruit and vegetables. These brands satisfy the consumer’s basic needs. Consumers will only buy the brand when it is on sale, but switch back to their other brand choice when it is not. Make your brand more than just a commodity. Brands need to be better, different, or cheaper. Otherwise, they will not be around for long, and you waste your investment. 
  • Brands that reach the “like it” stage experience the first sign of business success. Their consumers see the brand as a logical, functional, and smart choice. However, the lack of any emotional connection leaves the purchase up to chance. Consumers will still switch brands randomly. Brands at the like it stage stress the product performance so much they forget to trigger any emotions. 
  • Brands at the “love it” stage start to see more emotionally engaged consumers. The rule of love you must follow: Consumers must love the brand before you can tell consumers you love them. Consumers see the brand as a favorite choice, usually connected to a favorite part of their day. They are loyal and build the brand into a routine. These brands must also find a way to demonstrate their love toward consumers and continue to tighten the bond with their most loyal brand lovers. 
  • The “beloved brand” stage is where the brand becomes iconic, with a core base of brand lovers who cherish and defend the brand. These consumers see the brand as a personal choice, a badge they proudly hold in their hand or wear on their feet. At the beloved stage, the brands must create magical experiences that inspire brand lovers to share with their friends.

Matching brand funnel analysis to the brand love curve

You can begin using your consumer tracking, brand funnel, market share, and the voice of the consumer to help explain where your brand sits on the brand love curve.

  • Indifferent brands have skinny funnels, starting with inferior awareness scores. Consumers have little to no opinion. Concerning performance, you will see low sales and poor margins. Your brand plan for indifferent brands should increase awareness and consideration to kickstart the funnel. 
  • The like it brands have funnels that are solid at the top but quickly narrow at the purchase stage. Consumers see these brands as ordinary and purchase only on a deal. When they are not advertised or on sale, sales fall off dramatically. These brands need to close potential leaks to build a loyal following behind happy experiences.
  • The love it brands have a reasonably robust funnel but may have a smaller leak at loyal. They have stronger growth and margins. Look for ways to feed the love and turn repeat purchases into a ritual or routine. 
  • The beloved brands have the most robust brand funnels and positive consumer views. These brands should continuously track their funnel and attack any weaknesses before competitors exploit them. Also, it is time to leverage that brand love to influence others.

How consumer strategies match up to the brand love curve

Five major brand strategies help move your brand from one stage of the brand love curve to the next.

  • For unknown brands, the strategic focus should be to stand out so consumers will notice the brand within a crowded brand world, where they see an estimated 5,000 brand messages per day. 
  • For indifferent brands, the strategy must establish the brand in the consumer’s mind so they can see a clear point of difference over their current brand choice. 
  • At the like it stage, the strategy is to separate the brand from the pack, creating happy experiences that build a trusted following over time. Only after they trust the brand, they begin to open up.
  • At the love it stage, the focus shifts tightening the bond with the most loyal brand fans. 
  • At the beloved stage, the strategic challenge is to create outspoken, loyal fans who are willing to whisper to their friends on the brand’s behalf.

You can use brand funnel analysis to kickstart your deep-dive business review

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

To purchase our Beloved Brands playbook, click on the icon where you buy your books 

We provide business review templates to fit your brand

Five ads that bring consumer insights to life

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market, Most Read Stories

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

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

Dove "Real Beauty"

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

Dove Real Beauty
Play Video

Ikea "It's just a lamp"

It’s a gutsy move by Ikea to admit their furniture is disposable. In reality, Ikea has loyal fans that keep coming back to the store. This lamp ad captures consumers who connect to the insight about “why hang onto this old lamp, it’s crazy, just get this year’s better model”.

Ikea Ad
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Nike "Find Your Greatness"

There is a fat kid inside most of us. This ad was aired during the 2012 Olympics when the best of the best are celebrated and those who come 4th are chastised. The insight is “I know working out is good for me. I am never going to win a medal. But I still want to improve, just a little”.  We don’t have to push to win a gold medal. We can be motivated to get out there and run.

Nike 2012 Olympics
Play Video

Always "Run like a girl"

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. Sadly, they depict a negative stereotypical overly feminine running style. Then, the narrator asks 10-year-old girls to run like a girl, and they run in a highly athletic manner. Finally, they 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. It 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. This is a time when moms and daughters will be choosing the feminine hygiene brand they will use.  

Always Like a Girl
Play Video

Nicoderm "Flight Attendant"

When I worked in the quit-smoking categories, I used the 360-degree mining for consumer insights. I have never smoked in my life, so all of this was new and forced me to listen, observe, and go deeper.

The starting data point was, “Studies show smokers will try to quit cold-turkey over seven times before reaching for a smoking aid to help them quit.” It speaks to how hard it is to quit, and how many times it takes to achieve success. Regarding smoking aids, it shows how the product is the last resort. 


The power of observation

Adding observations from focus groups, I could see how smokers become very agitated. We held two-hour focus groups and talked non-stop about what could get them to quit smoking. In the first hour, they were polite, but after one hour without a cigarette, I could see their agitation grow to a boiling point.   
When I listened further, I heard them say, “I feel guilty I can’t quit” or “I know I should quit” or “Whenever I quit, I feel I’m not myself. I get so irritable that I give up” or “I wish smoking wasn’t so bad for you because quitting smoking sucks.” These are some of the underlying feelings coming out, expressed in their words. 

Understanding the emotions

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

Consumer insight (connection point): 

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

Consumer enemy (pain point): 

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

Nicoderm
Play Video

Learn how to go a little deeper on consumer insights

Learn how to build your brand positioning

Get our Brand Positioning template

  • Our Brand Positioning PowerPoint file includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own business review.
  • Include slides for target profile, brand positioning statement, brand idea, brand concept, brand values, brand story, brand credo, and a creative brief.
  • Everything is organized and ready for your input.

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

To purchase our Beloved Brands playbook, click on the icon where you buy your books 

Build your marketing skills with our post on How to write a Brand Concept

One of the most important skills marketers need to know is the fundamentals of writing a brand concept. Read our step-by-step process for how to create a brand concept that brings your brand to life. Learn how to lay out the brand concept with the brand idea, consumer insights, main message, support points and call-to-action. 

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

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers, Most Read Stories

A smart brand plan gets everyone on the same page. So, we have a one-page brand plan to help. That way, everyone drives against the same vision, key issues, strategies, and tactics. Throughout this article, I will show how to write a brand plan, with brand plan examples and we have a brand plan template.  

Your brand plan makes choices on how to allocate your brand’s limited resources to drive the biggest return. Most importantly, the plan gains approval from senior management around spending, strategies, tactics, goals, and projects. Moreover, your plan aligns, steers and inspires all functional areas of the organization. 
Your brand plan aligns marketing, sales, finance, supply chain, product development, human resources and any outside agencies. Lastly, the brand plan even helps the Brand Manager who wrote it to stay focused on delivering on what you said you would deliver.

Working through the flow of your strategic plan

An effective Brand Plan answers where are we, why are we here, where could we be, how can we get there and what do we need to do. To kickstart your planning process, these 5 strategic questions gives you the analysis, key issues, vision, goals strategies, execution, and measurement. 

Brand Vision

A well-written brand vision should be the ultimate end-in-mind achievement, which answers, “Where could we be?” Think about significant accomplishments that would make you feel completely fulfilled. That means, you have to put a stake in the ground to describe an ideal state for your future. Every smart brand plan must start with a brand vision statement. When I see brand teams struggle, they usually lack a brand vision. 

Some organizations get so fixated on achieving short-term goals; they chase every tactic in front of them just to make their numbers. Your vision should steer your entire brand plan. In addition, choose language and phrases to inspire, lead, and steer your team.

A good vision should scare you a little, but excite you a lot

Use these statements to inspire you as you write your own vision statement. Maybe you will see something that feels familiar to what is in your mind or at least a structure for how you would write your own vision statement.

Once you establish your vision, it sets up the key issues of your plan, including obstacles in the way of achieving your vision, which then sets up the strategies for how to reach the vision. Above all, a brand plan has to flow like an orchestra, with each element directly related to the others.

Key Issues

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

Use our Strategic ThinkBox to ask 4 questions:

  1. Start, by asking what is your your brand’s core strength. As a result, make a decision on whether your brand will be product-led, story-led, experience-led or price led. 
  2. Next, ask how tight the bond is with consumers. Using our brand love curve, where does your brand sit? Is your brand at the indifferent, like it, love it or beloved stage? 
  3. Then, ask what is your competitve situation? That is to say, is your brand a power player, challenger, disruptor or craft type brand?
  4. Finally, assess the current business situation your brand faces. So, use your analysis to figure out if your brand needs to keep the momentum going, fix it, re-align or are you at the startup stage. 

These 4 questions will give you a good start on your core strength, consumer, competitive, and situational issues.

Creating key issue questions

As we wrote our key issues in question format, then the strategy becomes the answer. Look how they match up. Our brand plan example, Gray’s Cookies, allows you to see how to lay out your strategies.

Brand Strategy

The strategies in the brand plan answer, “How can we get there?” Each strategy must provide a clear, definitive answer to each of your key issues. When I was in business school, I had a marketing professor who would say 15 times per class, “It is all about choices. It is all about choices.” 

Think of your brand plan as a tool to force you to make tough decisions. Most importantly, you have to apply your brand’s limited resources of dollars, time, people, and partnerships against an unlimited number of choices. It is easy to get distracted by more and more options. 

Use your brand plan process to limit their choices down to those that move your brand along the pathway towards your stated brand vision. In addition, choose the strategic options that provide the highest return on effort (ROE) or the highest return on investment (ROI). 

Start with strategic objective statements

Using our Gray’s Cookies brand plan example, you can see how we put together the strategic objective statement.  

 

Start by writing your strategic objective statement using the four components of our a + b + c + d model that we use for strategic thinking:

 

A: First, call out the investment in a strategic program, with crystal clear marching orders to the team, leaving no room for doubt, confusion, or hesitation. 

B: Second, provide a focused opportunity, which is the breakthrough point where the brand will exert pressure to create a market impact. 

C: Third, achieve a specific desired market impact with a stakeholder you will attempt to move, whether it is consumers, sales channels, competitors, or influencers.

D: Finally, drive a specific performance result, linking the market impact to a specific result, either making the brand more powerful or more profitable.

Writing the plan with the power of threes

I believe in “the power of threes.” Your brand plan should help you make decisions on where to focus and allocate your limited resources. As a guideline, for an annual plan, I recommend you focus on the top three strategies, then focus on the top three tactics for each strategy. 


That means nine significant projects for your brand to focus your limited resources against during the year. Compare the subtle difference with what happens when you try to do five strategies with five tactics: the plan quickly explodes into 25 projects, and seven by seven leads to 49 projects. That would cripple your brand’s limited resources. What if you never get to the forty-ninth project, but it was the most important project? So, with fewer projects, you will be able to execute everything with full passion and brilliance.

I see too many marketers with a long list of things they need to do. They are so busy; they have no time to think about what matters to their brand. You will have very little passion for any one particular project, trying to get everything done. In short, this thinking is not the ideal behavior a brand needs to become a beloved brand.

How to lay out each brand strategy

Once you have decided on your top three strategies, you can lay out a specific slide to explain each strategy within your presentation. First, include the strategic objective statement. Second, you should have stated goals that measure the ideal result of this strategy. Third, you should list three tactical programs, where you will invest your resources. Finally, insert a “watch out statement” to show I am proactively addressing any issue that could derail my presentation. Using our brand plan example, we have laid out one of our strategy pages for Gray’s Cookies below. 

Execution Plans

“What do we need to do to get there” matches up marketing execution activity to the brand strategy. To start, look at communicating the brand story, managing the consumer towards the purchase moment, launching new product innovation and delivering the brand experience. Certainly, you should use your brand idea to drive each of these key areas of the brand.  

Creating execution plans

For each execution investment, write a separate execution plan as an organizing tool to ensure everyone has specific marching orders on the particular strategy related to their function, leaving no room for misinterpretation. Most importantly, every strategic investment you make deserves an execution plan, that might include a communications, retail, or innovation plan.

A brand communications plan answers seven questions. 

These questions steer and inspire the creation of the brand story work, so the brand communications work will establish your brand positioning, and motivate consumers to see, think, feel, do, or influence. The plan must answer the following questions: 

  1. What do we need our advertising to do? (Brand strategic objective statement)
  2. Who is in our desired consumer target? (Most motivated people to buy what we do)
  3. What are we selling? (Our main consumer benefit we stand behind) 
  4. Why should they believe us? (Support points to back up the main benefit) 
  5. What is our organizing brand idea? (Brand soul, essence or DNA for the brand)
  6. What do we want people to see, think, feel, do, or influence? (Desired consumer response)
  7. Where will our consumer be most receptive to see and act upon our message? (Media plan)
Using Gray’s Cookies brand plan example, here’s how we put together the Brand Communications Plan. 

Bring everything together into a Brand Plan on a page

I first came up with this “brand plan-on a page” format when I led a team with 15 brands. It helped me see the big picture quickly, rather than having to hunt through a big thick binder. Above all, the sales team appreciated the ability to see the entire plan on one page quickly. Most salespeople also had 15 brands to manage with each of their customers. In addition, everyone who works on the brand should receive the one-page plan and keep it close by to steer their day-to-day decisions. Here’s our one-page brand plan example.

We have divided the plan into three sections

  • Analysis: The analysis section lays out the summary from the deep-dive business review. First, start with an overview of the top three points for what is driving your brand’s growth. Second, list what is inhibiting your brand’s growth. Next, list out any threats that could hurt your brand. Finally, focus on the opportunities your brand sees.  
  • Key issues and strategies: The key issues and strategies section focuses on the top three issues getting in the way of achieving your vision. Remember, put in question format. The strategic solutions are the answers that match up to each of those questions. So, make sure you set goals to measure your brand’s performance against each strategy. 
  • Execution section: The execution section maps out the specific plans for each of the chosen execution areas. As a reminder, these ideas should align with the most essential consumer touchpoints.  

Here is a brand plan example for a B2B brand

Our brand plan example for a healthcare brand

In addition, you can purchase the right brand plan template that will work for you

Beloved Brands is the playbook to keep at your fingertips

Our readers tell us they reach for Beloved Brands a few times each week as a reference toolkit to help them with the day-to-day management of their brand. 

With Beloved Brands, we want to challenge you with questions that get you to think differently about your brand strategy. Most importantly, we take you through our process for defining your brand positioning will open your mind to new possibilities for how you see your brand. 

We will show you how to write a brand plan that everyone can follow. In short, everyone on your team will know precisely how they can contribute to your brand’s success. 

We will show you how to run the creative execution process. For example, you will learn how to write an inspiring brief, and make decisions to find both smart and breakthrough advertising. 

Lastly, you will learn new methods to analyze the performance of your brand with a deep-dive business review. 

Over 90% of our Amazon reviews receive five-star ratings, and Beloved Brands has spent numerous weeks as a #1 bestseller in brand management. 

Use an inspiring creative brief to kick off the advertising process

Posted on Posted in Most Read Stories

 

I wish everyone would stop writing ugly creative briefs. The brief is a crucial way for brand leaders to control the strategy, but give freedom on execution to the experts who execute. Too many marketers have this backward, preferring to give freedom on strategy with various possible strategic options layered within the creative brief. They attempt to try to control the creative outcome by writing a long list of tangled mandatories. We will use our creative brief template to show you how to write every line of the brief.

When you write a big-wide creative brief with layers of options within the brief, the Agency just peels the brief apart and gives you strategic options. 

For instance, if you put a big wide target market of 18-55 years-old, your agency will present one ad for 18-25 years-old, another one for 25-40 years-old and the third ad for 40-55 years-old. If you put two objectives into the brief, asking to drive trial and drive usage, you will get one ad idea for driving trial and one ad idea for usage. 

This means you are picking your brand strategy based on which ad idea you like best. That is wrong. Pick your strategy first and use the creativity of execution to express that strategy.

The creative brief should define “the strategic box” for the creative to play within.

Most great creative advertising people I have met are problem solvers, not inventors. I would describe them as ‘in-the-box’ creative thinkers, not blue sky “out-of-the-box” dreamers. If they need a good problem to solve, then give them your problems, but never your solutions. Never give your creative team a blank slate or blank canvas and ask them to come up with an ad. Use the creative brief to create the right box for them to play in, and to solve your problem. 

When I see marketers writing a big, wide brief with too many objectives, a vague target, and cluttered messaging, I wonder if you have unknowingly created too much strategic freedom. While you might think writing a big, wide creative brief provides room for creativity, it does not. Your agency will see you as confused, and will likely just peel the brief apart, rewrite the brief how they want, then provide you with strategic options, instead of creative options. The problem is that you will be choosing your strategy based on which ad you like. 

When I see marketers write a big, long laundry list of mandatories, everyone knows you are just trying to control the creative output. Do not create a tangled web of mandatories that almost write the ad itself, or you will trap the creative team into taking various elements in the mandatory list and build a Frankenstein-type ad. If you want great work – and I know you do – give your agency the creative freedom they need.

Here is what creative people do not want from you:

  • A blank canvas: Creative people would prefer a business problem to solve, not a wide-open request for advertising options.
  • An unclear problem: Creative people need a tightly defined and focused problem to generate great work that meets your needs.
  • A long list of mandatories: Do not create a tangled web of mandatories that almost write the ad itself. These lists only trap the creative team, holding them back from doing anything breakthrough, surprising or spectacular.
  • Your Solutions: Creative people find it demotivating to be asked for their expertise (solving problems) and then not be fully utilized (given your answer).

The creative brief must focus and inspire all marketing execution

Keep the brief small

A smart creative brief should be brief, not long. Avoid the “Just in Case” list by taking your pen and stroking a few things off your creative brief! It is always enlightening when you tighten your Creative Brief. Make tough decisions of what goes into the brief, so you narrow the brief down to:

  • One objective
  • One desired consumer response
  • A target tightly defined
  • One main benefit
  • Up to two main reasons to believe

How to write smarter creative briefs:

1. Define a tight target: 

  • Do not spread your limited resources against a target so broad that it leaves everyone thinking your message is for someone else. Target the people who are the most motivated by what your brand does best, and make your brand feel personal so your target consumer feels special. A brand must make consumers think, “This brand is for me.” 

2. Drive one objective at a time:

  • Build advertising that gets consumers to do only one thing at a time, whether it’s something you want them to see, think, do, or feel, or influence their friends. Most importantly, force yourself to make a decision that links the advertising objective with your brand strategy.  

3. Drive one main message at a time: 

  • Do not put so many messages into your ad; consumers will see and hear a cluttered mess. They will shut down their minds and reject your ad. They will not know what your brand stands for. In other words, you will never build a reputation for anything. 

4. Talk about consumer benefits, not about your product features: 

  • Start a conversation that shows what the consumers get or how they will feel. Do not just yell features at the consumer. Moreover, use your brand idea to simplify and organize your brand messaging. 

How to transform your strategy into a creative brief

Let’s look at the seven questions of the brand communications plan 

  1. Who is in our consumer target?  
  2. What are we are selling?  
  3. Why should they believe us?  
  4. What is our organizing brand idea?
  5. What do we need our advertising to do? 
  6. For the objective, what do we want people to think, feel or do?  
  7. Where will our consumer be most receptive to see and act upon our brand message?

Do the strategic homework you developed through the brand communications plan, and begin to populate the 12 questions of your creative brief. Below, we can see how to use our creative brief template to build on the brand communications strategy.

Learn how to do the work on your brand positioning

Then learn how to complete a brand communications plan

Our creative brief template

A well written creative brief takes everything you know about the brand and strategically desire, and distills it down to 1 page. Here’s an example of a good creative brief template:

Our mini creative brief template

Going too fast sometimes takes too long. With the explosion of media options, timing is everything. Unfortunately, there are too many “phone call briefs” happening. Even worse, no brief at all.  Next time, use our mini creative brief template.

Without a creative brief, too many things could go wrong. When you see the creative options, you have to rely on your memory and instincts. When you try to present it to your boss, there is nothing to guide them through their decision-making. One round of rejection by your boss, and you will be wondering why you did not just take the 15-30 minutes to organize your thoughts and write a mini creative brief. 

If your brand has a solid brand communications plan, you should be able to create a mini brief with a clear objective, consumer target and insight, the desired response, and the main message.

 

Read more about how to write a mini creative brief

Get our Brand Positioning template

  • Our Brand Positioning PowerPoint file includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own business review.
  • Include slides for target profile, brand positioning statement, brand idea, brand concept, brand values, brand story, brand credo, and a creative brief.
  • Everything is organized and ready for your input.

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

To purchase our Beloved Brands playbook, click on the icon where you buy your books 

Build your marketing skills with our post on How to write a Brand Concept

One of the most important skills marketers need to know is the fundamentals of writing a brand concept. Read our step-by-step process for how to create a brand concept that brings your brand to life. Learn how to lay out the brand concept with the brand idea, consumer insights, main message, support points and call-to-action. 

How to be successful at the marketing director level

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers, Most Read Stories

Most people are promoted up to Brand Manager because they are really smart and get things done. From my experience, they get stuck at the Brand Manager level mainly because they are bad at managing people, or can’t get along with the sales force. Promoting them up to Marketing Director just becomes too risky to the organization–they can’t afford to lose key talent, and they can’t afford to lose touch with the sales team.

Many Marketing Directors fail if they can’t stop acting like a Brand Manager. They are too hands-on and makes all the decisions. They smother the team and never lets them have their day in the sun. One rule is at every level you have to adjust to the new role. Brand Managers fail when they keep acting like ABMs and Directors fail when they keep acting like Brand Managers.

On a classic brand management team, there are four key levels:

  1. Assistant brand manager
  2. Brand manager
  3. Marketing director or Group marketing director
  4. VP marketing or CMO.

In simple terms, the assistant brand manager role is about doing, analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.At the brand manager level, it becomes about ownership and strategic thinking within your brand plan. Most brand managers are honestly a disaster with their first direct report, and get better around the fifth report. When you get to the marketing director role, it’s becomes more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing. To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best.

The 5 success factors for marketing directors

The Marketing Director role becomes less marketing and more leading. Your role is to set the consistent standard for your team and then hold everyone to that standard. To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best. Sometimes you’ll need to teach, guide and challenge. Sometimes, you’ll have to put your foot down to stay fundamentally sound and other times you’ll have to follow creative ideas you might not be so sure will win. Let your best people shine, grow and push you. It’s their time.

1. Set a consistently high standard for your team

Hold your team to a consistently high standard of work: Rather than being the leader by example, I’d rather see you establish a high standard and hold everyone and yourself to that standard. Shift your style to a more process orientation so you can organize the team to stay focused, hit deadlines, keep things moving and produce consistent output. Consistent quality of brand plans, execution and interactions with everyone. It’s about how to balance the freedom you give with the standard you demand. Delegate so you motivate your stars, but never abdicate ownership of how your overall team shows up.

2. Behave predictably and consistently

A great marketing director becomes the consistent voice of reason to any potential influencers, acting on behalf of the brand team. The director becomes the usual point person that the VP, sales team, agency, each turn to offering their thoughts on the brands. Yet the director has to allow their BM to own the brand. As the team’s voice of reason, a great marketing director must continue to ground all potential influencers in the brand plan with the strategy choices, consistently communicate the brand’s direction and back up any tactical choices being made by the team.  

3. Be a consistent people leader

Newly appointed directors have to stop acting like a “Senior-senior brand manager” and let your team breathe and grow. We know you can write a brand plan, roll out a promotion super fast and make decisions on creative. But can you inspire your team to do the same? It becomes the director’s role to manage and cultivate the talent. Most brand managers have high ambitions–constantly wanting praise, but equally seeking out advice for how to get better. Be passionate about people’s careers–anything less they’ll see it as merely a duty you are fulfilling. A great marketing director should be meeting quarterly with each team member one on one to take them through a quarterly performance review. Waiting for year-end is just not enough. 

4. Show up as the consistent voice to the sales team

Marketing directors become the go to marketing person for the sales team to approach. Great sales people challenge marketers to make sure their account wins. I’ve seen many sales teams destroy the marketing director because the director refused to listen and stubbornly put forward their plan without sales input. Be the director that consistently reaches out and listens. They’ll be in shock, and stand behind your business. If sales people feel they’ve been heard, they are more apt to follow the directors vision and direction. A great marketing director should informally meet with all key senior sales leaders on a quarterly basis, to get to know them and listen to their problems. This informal forum allows problems to bubble up of problems and be heard, before they become a problem.

5. Consistently deliver great work and strong results

As it is a business, a great marketing director is expected to make the numbers. They have a knack for finding growth where others can’t. And yet when they don’t, they are the first to own the miss and put forward a recovery plan before being asked.You must have an entrepreneurial spirit of ownership, create goals that “scare you a little but excite you a lot”. They reach out for help across the organization, making those goals public and keep the results perfectly transparent. And everyone will follow you.

Consistency matters

Hopefully, you noticed the word “consistent” show up in all 5 factors for success. Stay Consistent. That is a trait I would encourage every director to take: show up with consistency in standards for your team, strategy, people management, dealings with sales and owning the numbers. With a bigger group of people who you influence, with a broader array of  interactions across the organization and with a bigger business line on the P&L, anything less than consistent will rattle your core team and rattle the system built around you. No one likes an inconsistent or unpredictable leader. They will mock your mood swings in the cafeteria. You will become famous but for the wrong reasons. The sales team will not be able to rely on your word–and to them, that’s everything. 

Senior leaders will struggle with you–and will not want to put you on the big important business because it just feels risky. Your agency will be uncertain as to what mood you will be in, when you show up to meetings. With your maturity and experience, now is the time to start to craft a consistent version of what you want to be.

At the marketing director level, think about the leader you want to be, and then focus every day on the consistency in how you deliver.

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How to manage your marketing career from ABM to CMO

At every level of your marketing career, you have to adjust to the new role. Brand Managers fail when they keep acting like ABMs and Directors fail when they keep acting like Brand Managers and VPs fail when they don’t know what to do.  In a classic marketing team, the four key roles are Assistant Brand Manager up to Brand Manager then up to Marketing Director and on to the VP/CMO role.