The 10 worst types of advertising clients. Don’t be one of these!

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

I come at this from the vantage of a fellow client. I’m not an advertising agency person, never having worked a day at an ad agency in my life. I spent 20 years in brand management. But, I have seen all these types of clients. I wrote this slightly tongue-in-cheek, and would like you to laugh a little, but think, “Hey, I know that person.”

I’d also like you to see a little of yourself in a few of these and if you are into personal growth and improvement, then challenge yourself to get better and stop being that type of client. We can always get better.

 

I get asked a lot: “So what is it that makes someone good at advertising?”

The answer I give is simple: “The best brand leaders consistently get good advertising on the air and consistently keep bad advertising off the air.”

 

The challenge for many marketers is that it takes a lot to get good advertising on the air. The best clients respect the process, the agency, and their judgment. And yet, most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting to great creative. As a Brand Leader, if you knew that showing up better would get you better advertising, do you think you could? Or are you stuck being one of these types of clients?

The 10 worst types of advertising clients

#1: Brand leaders who say, “You’re the expert!” 

While you might intend this to be a compliment to your agency, it is usually a total cop-out! You end up giving your agency enough rope to hang themselves. As a brand leader, you have to realize that you play the most significant role in the process. Your agency needs you to be engaged in every stage of the process and the work. Your agency requires you to inspire and motivate the team. I have seen a good agency make fantastic advertising for a great client, but I have seen lousy clients suck the life out of the world’s best agency. As the brand leader, bring your knowledge of the brand, show your passion for great work, make clear decisions, and inspire the work towards greatness. 

#2: Brand leaders who say, “I never liked the brief” or “I never liked the script.”

Passive-aggressive clients are usually insecure about their abilities in the advertising space. They keep firing their agency instead of taking ownership over their role in the process. I guess it’s easier to fire the agency than fire yourself. A great brand leader never approves work they don’t love. If you don’t love the work you create, then how do you ever expect the consumer to love your brand?

#3: Jekyll & Hyde

When brand leaders bring significant mood swings to the ad process, it will be very hard on the agency. They try to read the room and adjust to your mood. The worst thing that can happen for you is when your mood swing alters the work, and the work moves into a direction you never intended to go. As a brand leader, you have to stay consistent, so everyone knows precisely what exactly you are thinking. Be completely transparent.

#4: The constant bad mood

Even worse than the mood swings, is when a client shows up mad all the time. I have seen clients bring a death stare to creative meetings. Hilarious scripts get presented to a room of fear and utter silence. A true brand leader must motivate and inspire all those who touch their brand. Your greatness will come from the greatness of those who work for you. Be a favorite client, so people want to work for you, never treating them like they have to work for you. Advertising should be fun. When you are having fun, so will your consumer.

#5: The mystery person that’s not in the room

When the real decision-maker is not in the room, everyone second-guesses what might please that decision-maker. As a brand leader, you have to make decisions you think are right for your brand, not what your boss might say. Make the ad you want and then find a way to gain alignment and approval from your boss. The best brand leaders I know will fight anyone in the way of great work, including their boss.

#6: The dictator

When you TELL your agency what to do, it leaves your agency with only one answer: YES. When you ASK your agency a question, then there are three answers: YES, NO, MAYBE. When a brand leader comes in with the exact ad, then it is not a creative process, it just becomes an order taking process. Great ads have to make your brand feel different; different will always feel a little scary. To find greatness, revel in ambiguity and enjoy the unknown. The unknown should be what makes marketing such a great job.

#7: Driven by mandatories  

Don’t write a long list of mandatories that steers the type of advertising you want to see, and avoids the kind you don’t want to see. Give some freedom to allow the creative process to unfold. I believe the best ads are like the perfect birthday gift that surprises us, and we never thought to get it ourselves. Let go!!!  If you write an excellent brief, you don’t need a list of mandatories.

#8: The kitchen sink

Those clients who always have the “just in case” list. They want to speak to everyone, say everything possible, never focusing or making decisions. When you put everything in your brief, you force the creative team to decide on what’s most important. Brands that try to be everything to anyone will end up nothing to everyone. When you try to jam in every message into the creative, you end up with a complete mess. With each new message you add, it lowers the potential for the consumer to digest what you’re trying to say. Focus on a tightly defined target, with one main message. Get rid of anything on your “just in case” list.

#9: Keeps changing their mind

The best advertising people are in-the-box thinkers who like to solve problems. They are not necessarily blue-sky thinkers. The creative strategy is the starting point of the box for your creative team to solve. Every time you give feedback is a new box, for them to answer. At any stage, if the box keeps changing, you will baffle your agency and will never see the best creative work. The best brand leaders stay confident enough to stand by their decisions.

#10: The scientist:

Some clients believe there is ONE answer. Digital advertising is creating a belief that an A/B test can make the decision. What is the role of creative instincts? Marketers are not actuaries where we can punch in the data, and the answer comes out. As a brand leader, you can’t always get THE answer. When you try to eliminate risk, rather than learning to deal with risk-taking. Certainty might help you sleep better, but you will dream less.

 

Other stories you might like

 

  • How to write a creative brief. The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan. To read how to write a creative brief, click on this link: How to write a creative brief
  • How to write a brand positioning statement. Before you even get into the creative brief, you should be looking at target, benefits and reason to believe. To read how to write a brand positioning statement, click on this link: How to write a brand positioning statement  
  • How to write a brand plan: The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about. However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise. Follow this link to read more on writing a brand plan: How to write a brand plan

This type of thinking is in my book, Beloved Brands

Learn how to think, define, plan, execute and analyze

You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 

  • To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept. 
  • For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices. When it comes time for the analytics, 
  • I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

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

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

New Disney+ will create the most love and desire on day 1

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

With Disney+ every day will be like going to Disney World. While every other streaming service exerts effort to create content to fill up their pipeline, Disney+ starts with 90 years of the most loved family movies, the most innovative animated movies with Pixar, the best action heroes with Marvel, the most viewed movie franchises with Star Wars  and a library of 20th Century Fox movies. While we can debate whether the streaming services should be the producer or the carrier of content, Disney has vast experience in both. Disney+ will be the carrier, while the Disney production house will be the producer. They have long experience in not interfering with one another.

Streaming TV is going to get messy, but in terms of positioning, Disney is the clear winner on day one

TV is changing right before our eyes. Within the last 40 years, we have seen two gigantic shifts, going from bunny ears to cable in the 1970s/80s, and now cable to streaming. While a few people out there keep showing charts about traditional vs. digital, I would argue the average consumer does not care HOW they get their TV; they want more of it, hopefully, high quality, and for the best price possible.

 

Let me simplify this. We love TV. We don’t care how it is delivered. Do we? 

We have proven we will spend $100 for a lot of content, organized by channel types. By 2025, we will likely pay $100 for a lot of content, organized by content type, possibly across a handful of streaming services. If you don’t have smart TVs and devices all over your house, you will soon.

While brands race to win the streaming wars by 2025, that might only be stage one. We will see companies continue to take a shot at this market and fail. 

  • Apple
  • Microsoft
  • NBC Universal
  • CBS/Viacom
  • Sony
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Samsung
  • Alibaba
  • AT&T

Anyone else? This could end up looking like a dance off, with partnerships, eliminations and consolidation.  

We can already define Disney+

On day 1, Disney will be defined by the quality and well-known reputation of its content. Most services will, but we already know and love a ton of the content they will carry. They will launch with original films and television series based on Disney movies, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and 20th Century Fox. 

Disney

  • Lion King
  • Aladin
  • The Littlest Mermaid
  • Frozen
  • Bambi
  • Tarzan
  • Snow White

Pixar

  • Toy Story
  • Monsters Inc
  • Finding Nemo
  • The Incredibles
  • Cars

Marvel

  • X Men
  • Deadpool
  • Spider-man

20th Century Fox

  • Star Wars
  • Avatar
  • Titanic
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Planet of the Apes
  • The Sound of Music
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Hidden Figures
  • Lincoln
  • Home Alone

On top of that, Disney owns ABC and ESPN TV stations, which will be included in the US market, but I predict they could be coming to other markets within a few years. 

 

I can no longer define Netflix

High-quality content with the movie-like quality. Easy to access and commercial-free. With others now entering the streaming space, won’t Netflix now have to define itself so that it can compete? I’d already say the quality has fallen; HBO seems to have the most consistent content. I see Netflix entering into reality type TV shows with cooking and dating type shows. Many of their latest movies have a made-for-TV quality to them. 

Now that streaming is a commodity; I no longer know how to define Netflix. Can you? 

If I were Netflix; I’d be scared. In the last six months, taking out some market fluctuations, Disney valuation is up 18%, while Netflix is down 13%. I think the market might still be underestimating how crazy consumers will feel about Disney+

Amazon and Apple could end as carriers more than producers

Whenever I have that debate on if you are a carrier or a producer, everyone seems to want to say BOTH. 

While Amazon has produced some great content in the last few years, that’s likely not their greatest strength. As someone who orders $5 items for next day delivery on my Amazon Prime account, I see Amazon’s longer term win is they will have access to the largest network of eyeballs for any producer who wants their content to be viewed. Just as they are turning into the world’s largest retailer, they could turn into the world’s largest movie and TV house. 

 

As it appears Apple is willing to carry anyone in their news service, we could see the same as they get set to launch their own streaming service. While I can’t predict if Apple will be successful, shifting a corporate culture from producing cool gadgets into producing cool stuff could be a gigantic learning curve. Yes, they have access to billions of consumers worldwide, why not just acquire Netflix? Is an offer of $150 Billion fair?

 

The big question; when do these streaming services start taking advertising?

This type of brand thinking is in my book, Beloved Brands

Learn how to think, define, plan, execute and analyze

You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 

  • To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept. 
  • For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices. When it comes time for the analytics, 
  • I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

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

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

The ten step process in getting better advertising for your brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

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

There is a leadership advantage in being the least knowledgeable person in the room. While it may sound strange at first, when you are a layer removed from the specialist who does the work, it allows you to think, question, challenge and make decisions on choosing the right advertising. Focus on the strategy, but stay clear-minded enough to judge if the advertising is good enough or reject if it is not.

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

Be a better client

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

The ten steps of the creative advertising process

1. Strategy pre-work: 

The brand positioning and brand plan homework make it easier to write a great creative brief. Go deep on finding the consumer insights and consumer enemy, understand the brand positioning, and brand idea. In your brand plan, make sure you write a tightly focused brand communications plan. Only after you have done your homework; take a pen to the creative brief.

2. Focused creative brief: 

Sit with your agency and turn your homework into a creative brief. Debate every point. Keep it focused. Think of the brief like creating a strategic box the ad must play within. The brief must have one objective, a tightly defined target market with rich consumer insights, one crystal clear desired consumer response of whether you want consumers to see, think, feel or do, and one main message you know will motivate the consumer target to respond positively. For added confidence, lay out your brand positioning into a brand concept you can test and validate with consumers.


3. Creative expectations: 

Just after signing off on the brief, request an informal meeting with the creative team to help convey your vision, passion, strategy, and needs. An informal meeting is your first chance to inspire the team and begin the push for great work. It always surprises me that the first time most marketers meet their creative team is at the first creative meeting, which is usually three weeks after the creative team has started to work on your brand. That is crazy. It seems like an old-school way for the account team to control both the client and the creative team, keeping them at arm’s length. I believe the best advertising comes from a highly personal relationship with your creative team.

4. Tissue session: 

When you have an entirely new campaign, or you are working on a high-risk campaign, you should ask to hold an informal tissue session where the creative team presents roughed out conceptual ideas, usually with hand-drawn visuals, with a simple headline and description of a story. This meeting is an excellent chance to get your hands dirty, understand where the team wants to go, either encouraging them to explore some ideas further or talk about how some ideas might not fit. You get to see behind the creative curtain. Do not abuse this privilege by adding your own ideas to the mix. Focus on big ideas and use the meeting to inspire and push for better.

5. Creative meeting: 

How you show up at the first creative meeting is crucial to the entire project. You are now on the “hot seat,” and you should feel the pressure. You are being judged as much as you think you are there to judge the work. Think of the first creative meeting like a first date. I have seen the relationship fizzle within seconds. Be on your best behavior. Stay positive and focus on big-picture decisions. Give direction and make decisions. Stop thinking that your job is to fix or change the ads you see. Do not get too wrapped up in small details, as there remains plenty of time to keep working on those details. Use your feedback to inspire the team.

6. Feedback memo: 

Work it out with the agency ahead of time that you will give a feedback memo 48 hours after the creative meeting. This memo is your chance to gather your thoughts, balancing your creative instincts with your strategic thinking. The memo should clarify details you did not have a chance to talk about in the creative meeting. Where you are stuck, frame it as a problem, but avoid giving your specific solutions. Use the memo as a chance to create a new box for the creative team, an evolution from the box you created with the creative brief. Give them your problems, not your solutions.

7. Advertising testing: 

The use of ad testing depends on timing, budget, or degree of risk. Where you have a new major campaign, test the ideas you feel have the best chance to express your brand positioning, communicate the main benefit, break through the clutter, and motivate consumers to purchase. You can use qualitative focus group feedback to help confirm your instincts, or quantitative testing to replicate and predict how it may do in the market. I am a big believer that you should only use ad testing to confirm your pick, never to make your decision. Choose in your mind, what you think is the best ad. In case the results are close, go with your gut and select the one you chose before the test.

8. Gain approval: 

It is essential to keep your boss aware at every stage. Use your first meeting with your boss to state your vision for the project. Through each update meeting, keep your boss aligned with every decision. However, you always need to sell in the ad! With every great ad I ever made, there were many resistors. However, with every possible bad ad on the table, I seemed to be the only resistor, who was trying not to make it. Own your vision, own your favorite ad, and find a way to make it happen.

9. Production: 

The production process can be a complicated element of the project. Remember, you have zero expertise in any production area. Do not even pretend you do. Your primary role is to deliver as close to the original script that was approved while managing the tone to ensure it fits your brand. During the shoot, try to get more options than you need, just in case, as it may look different in the final edit room.

10. Post-production: 

As you move to the post-production stage, you become even less of an expert. Many clients decide to stay close to their agency account person. I believe you should talk directly with every expert (editors) you work with. A personal approach will enable you to get the most out of each of the experts. Your greatness happens through their greatness.

 

This type of thinking is in my book, Beloved Brands

Learn how to think, define, plan, execute and analyze

You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 

  • To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept. 
  • For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices. When it comes time for the analytics, 
  • I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

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

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

How to build and stand behind a purpose-driven beloved brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

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

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

Borrowing the model for branding

Brand purpose can be a powerful way to connect with both employees and consumers, helping define your brand soul. While this Venn diagram looks somewhat crazy at first, trust me, it works as an excellent tool for building your brand’s purpose. This Venn diagram has four significant factors, which match up:

  1. Does it fit with what consumers need or want?
  2. Does it fit the core values of your team
  3. Does it deliver your passion in loving what you do? 
  4. Can you build a beloved and successful branded business.

The how-to model helps find your brand purpose

While the Venn diagram creates the purpose with the intersection of all four circles, you can find your own brand purpose by defining each combination of circles, one at a time, which expresses the four pillars that will deliver your brand purpose

 

A. Focus your passion on building a tight emotional bond with your most cherished consumers

Combines consumer needs (1) with loving what you do (2). All the passion you put into your work should focus on becoming a favorite brand of your consumers. You should love what you do and love what it does for your consumers. How your consumers react should drive your inner motivations.

B. Build your branded business around a unique, ownable, and motivating brand idea

Combines consumer needs (1) with building a successful branded business (4). Build a brand idea to organize everything you do to deliver a consistent brand that will move consumers through their customer journey and become a beloved, high-growth, powerful, and profitable branded business. How tight you build a bond should drive your business success.

C. Inspire a values-driven culture to provide happy consumer experiences

Combines living the values of the team (3) with creating a successful branded business (4). Your people are the “difference-makers” in delivering an incredible brand. They create a brand worthy of being loved to drive higher prices, lower costs, enter new markets, and create new uses. Link your people to driving the power and profits of your brand.

D. Use exceptional execution to become your consumer’s favorite brand

Combines loving what you do (2) with the values of the team (3). Your values provide the backbone of your company, a set of beliefs and motivations linked with how people want to work. The values encourage your people to demonstrate their passion and create a culture where your people will never settle for OK when greatness is attainable. Allow them to put their passion into the brand; they can share in the pride of the team when the brand is successful.

Example of brand purpose for Gray’s Cookies

Take the work within the four pillars to build up the brand purpose. The final purpose statement is, “Our purpose is to help people re-discover the lost secret that the most amazing tasting food is made of natural ingredients.” 

Treat your brand purpose right

If you love brand purpose, you should treat brand purpose properly, and where it sits within your brand actually matters.

• Purpose is NOT a strategy.

• Purpose is NOT an advertising line.

Purpose answers, “Why does your brand exist?” It is the underlying personal motivation for why you do what you do. It gives your brand a soul. It should sit very high. 

 

You can't just make up a purpose for an ad

Brands are making mistakes when it comes to purpose. You can’t can’t just make an ad and think you are done. If you were a product-driven razor brand for 50 years, like Gillette, it might take another 50 years to transition to a true purpose-driven brand. 

This is a fantastic message for our current world we live in. Gillette just hasn’t earned the right to say it. There are no clues in anything Gillette has ever done with their purpose for us to buy into this message. I believe it to be too sharp of a pivot for it to work for them. Had this have been a different brand, where they truly lived up to it, then it may have been ideal.

 

Your first audience of your purpose should be your employees, not consumers.

The values form the backbone of your organization. They may come from your background, how you grew up, rules you identify with or how you see your priorities in life.
Your beliefs come from your experience, helping explain why and how you choose to do business, how you treat your people, and how you conduct yourself as a leader and as a person in the community. These beliefs should be personal, ethical, or rooted in frustration for how you see things happening in the world.
Your inspirations should excite the team members who work behind the scenes of the brand. Inspirations should stimulate your people to go beyond the norms of effort or passion.
For organizations, I believe it works best when your people have input into creating and building your values. Maybe that is one of my own core values in a bottom-up approach to building brands. However, the closer your values reflect the realities of what your people believe in, the more successful you will be in using those values to inspire greatness.

Using your brand idea to 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 daily. It is a beautifully written document and ahead of its time.

brand credo
  • Start with your brand idea and turn it into an inspiring promise statement, which explains to your people how they can positively impact your customers.
  • Use your brand’s core point of difference to outline the expectations of how everyone can support and deliver the point of difference. A great exercise is to get every department to articulate its role in delivering the brand idea.
  • Connect with your people by tapping into the personal motivation for what they can do to support your brand purpose, brand values, and core beliefs. Make it very personal.

Make sure purpose flows through every part of your brand, before you release it to the public. 

This type of thinking is in my book, Beloved Brands

Brand leaders must know how to think, define, plan, execute and analyze

You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 

  • To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept. 
  • For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices. When it comes time for the analytics, 
  • I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

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

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

Is the CMO title dead?

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Over the last few months, a number of prominent companies have removed their CMO, and the title that goes with it. And, now we have the over-reaction period of “what does this mean?”

Some of the CMOs have been replaced by the EVP Marketing. That’s the same thing. Others have been replaced by “Chief Growth Officer”; again the same thing. Some have been rolled under sales, and one has been combined with Technology. 

 

Two weird little HR-things about titles

  1. When a company wants to get rid of someone, but wants to minimize the severance package, they call it a restructure, claiming the position no longer exists. And voila, the CMO is replaced by the EVP revenue. (same thing)
  2. When a company wants someone who was a star in marketing to come back and oversee marketing, that individual could hang onto the previous title. All of a sudden we have an EVP of Marketing and Technology.

Marketing is certainly not dead

Let’s know our history. 

  • Up until the mid-1990s, the VP Marketing was the be-all-and-end-all in marketing, reporting up to a President. They had responsibility for brand positioning, product innovation, advertising, and dealing with customer decisions. They were accountable for the top-line sales, marketing spend, forecasts and overall profit delivery. They acted as the GM of a business unit or major brand within the company.
  • As the global marketing role came into play in the 1990s, there was a Global VP and a Country VP. The Global VP was supposed to work with the country leads, and would work on global product innovation pipeline, global positioning, but allow the countries to focus on local positioning, launches, advertising and customers. The one big difference I saw is the Country VP had the budget and topline responsibility, while the global VP had less money. 
  • The next move was to transform countries into regions and assign priorities. In most brand driven companies, North America and/or Europe were the largest regions, but offered the lowest growth, Asia was the high growth opportunity, and Africa/South America were growth regions.
  • Starting to look complicated with global VPs, regional VPs and possibly local VPs, companies created one layer above them called the ChIef Marketing Officer. At first they were staff roles managing the global VPs, but then moved to becoming the overall head of strategy and go-to-market such as advertising, innovation and retail.

I dreamed of being a VP marketing, never really the CMO. I suppose those under 40 likely dreamed of being a CMO. 

Maybe the CMO role is dying, because there are just too many layers of VPs all in conflict, nothing gets done. It is my opinion that marketing needs a very strong voice at the top, whatever you wish to call it. I’m ok with VP! There still is and will always be the boss who calls the shots, runs the process and helps their teams get better.

There will always be the Marketing Boss!!!

Now, while we are here, and hopefully I have your interest, let’s shift gears and discuss what you need to be successful. 

 

My five factors succeed as the head of marketing (whatever it is called)

  1. Your people come first
  2. Bring a vision to the role
  3. Put the spotlight on your team
  4. Be an approachable leader
  5. Run the process and the numbers

1. Your people come first

  • The best VP/CMO understands that the smarter your people, the better the work they produce and in turn the stronger your results will be. 
  • Have a regular review of the talent with your directors, with systemic way to get feedback to everyone on the team on a quarterly basis. 
  • Invest in training and development. Marketing training is not just on the job, but in the classroom to challenge their thinking and give them the necessary skills to be better in their jobs.  
  • Marketing fundamentals matter. 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. 

2. Bring a vision to the role

  • Bring an inspiring vision to the role, that everyone can follow and push themselves to achieve. Look at what needs fixing on your team, and create your own vision statements that relevant to your situation.  
  • Bring a human side to the role. Get up, walk around and engage with everyone on your team. Make someone’s day. Your role is to motivate and encourage them to do great work.  
  • Influence behind the scenes to clear roadblocks. Know when you need to back your team up, whether it’s an internal struggle, selling the work into your boss or with a conflict with an agency.  
  • Do they love it? When they put their great work up for approval, and it’s fundamentally sound, approve it. Don’t do the constant spin of pushing for better, because then you look indecisive. 

3. Put the spotlight on your team

  • Let them own it and let them shine: It has to be about them, not you.  
  • Don’t be the super-duper Brand Manger. It’s not easy to balance giving them to freedom to lead you and yet knowing when to step in and make a decision. By making all the decisions, you bring yourself down a level or two and you take over their job.    
  • Instead of telling, you need to start asking. Ask good questions to challenge or push your team into a certain direction without them knowing you’re pushing them is more enlightening than coming up with statements of direction.  
  • Challenge your team and recognize the great work.

4. Be an approachable leader

  • Your people have to know how to act around you. Make it comfortable enough for them to approach you, to communicate the good and bad. A scary leader discourages people from sharing bad results, leaving you in the dark. Open dialogue keeps you more knowledgeable. 
  • Inconsistent behavior by a leader does not “keep them on their toes”. It inhibits creativity and creates tension. Be consistent in how you think, how you act in meetings and how you approve.  
  • Leadership assumes “follower-ship”. Creating a good atmosphere on the team will make people go the extra mile for you. 

5. Run the process and the numbers

  • The best VP/CMO runs the profit statement and the marketing processes, so your people can focus on what they need to be their best; running the brands and the execution
  • Run the P&L and make investment choices. Bring an ROI and ROE (return on investment and effort) mindset to decisions.  
  • Great processes in place—brand plans, advertising, creative briefs, sales execution—is not restrictive but rather provides freedom to your people. Focus your team’s creative energy on great work that gets in the marketplace, not trying to figure out what slide looks really cool in the brand plan presentation. 

The brand leader must deliver

  • Quintessentially, rule #1 is you have to make the numbers. As the VP, your main role is to create demand for your brands. What’s expected of you is to gain share and drive sales growth to help drive profit for the company?   
  • The results come from making the right strategic choices, executing at a level beyond the competitors and motivating your team to do great work. But how you do it, and the balances you place in key areas are choices you need to make.  
  • Making the numbers gives you more freedom on how you wish to run things. Without the numbers, the rest might not matter.

The head of marketing can be a lonely role

I remember when I first took the job as VP, I found it surprisingly a bit lonely.  Everyone in marketing tries to be “on” whenever you are around. And you don’t always experience the “real” side of the people on your team. That’s ok. Just be ready for it.   

The distance from your new peers (the head of sales, HR, operations or finance) is far greater than you’re used to. And it might feel daunting at first. Your peers expect you to run marketing and let them run their own functional area. And the specific problems you face, they might not appreciate or even understand the subtleties of the role.   

Your boss also gives you a lot of rope (good and bad) and there’s usually less coaching than you might be used to. It’s important for you to have a good mentor or even an executive coach to give you someone to talk with that understands what you’re going through.

Beloved Brands: The playbook to build a brand that consumers will love

What will you get from the Beloved Brands playbook?

In the past two decades, what makes brands successful has changed, and you must change with it. You will learn the fundamentals of managing your brand, with brand love at the core. I will show you how to improve your thinking to unleash your full potential as a brand leader. 

You will learn how to think, define, plan, execute, and analyze, and I provide every tool you will ever need to run your brand. You will find models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 

To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept. 

For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 

To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on execution around creative advertising and media choices. When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

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

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

How Taylor Swift uses social media to connect with her fans as “friends”

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Taylor Swift uses her 120 million followers to connect with fans as friends and build a beloved brand. While her social media is definitely handled by a large team of activators, she has a vision, direction, and the final say of her brand portrayal. 

 

Let’s use our smart strategic thinking model to explain her brilliance in how she has fuelled a decade momentum, while everyone other superstar falls. Our five elements of strategy include:

 

  1. Set a vision of what you want for your brand
  2. Invest resources in a strategic program 
  3. Focus on an identified opportunity
  4. Leverage a breakthrough impact 
  5. Performance result that pays back 

Five elements of strategic thinking that explain Taylor Swift's momentum plan.

1. Set a vision of what you want

  • Every pop star wants #1 songs and sold-out concerts for as long as possible. Taylor also wants to portray herself as an average small-town girl living a big city celebrity life.

2. Invest resources in a strategic program

  • Taylor’s most loyal fans are young women, 13-27; who are discovering life. She treats her fans as “new friends along for the ride.” And she uses social media to show she’s doing ordinary things in her crazy world. She uses face-to-face events to shock a few fans, making those fans watching feel closer to Taylor.

3. Focus on an identified opportunity

  • She works social media better than anyone. She leaves little surprise notes on fans Instagram posts. It could be as small as “that’s cute” or full-blown advice (see right). Her writing style is highly personal as though it’s from one friend to another. Imagine the impact when a teenager realizes someone with 100 followers was on their page. Taylor uses face-to-face drop-ins to randomly show up at the most personal moments in a fans life. She randomly attended a fan’s wedding, hugging everyone and talking with ease among her “friends.” She created“SwiftMas,” where they studied the social media pages of individual fans to give them bespoke gifts and a hand-written note—just like a friend would do. She visited one long-term fan with gifts for her son, spending 2 hours playing with her son, as though she were a good friend.

4. Leverage a breakthrough market impact

  • With each program, Taylor comes off as open, authentic, and genuine, who loves connecting with her fans. In a cluttered world of social media, her perfect image remains the “normal girl doing normal things anyone might do.” Her image has allowed her to overcome any natural pain points a celebrity goes through. She’s had many bad personal relationships. What would a normal girl do when she breaks up? Write a song about what a jerk each guy was. She took on Apple over low royalty payments; Apple backed down, and then Taylor did an Apple TV ad. Taylor pulls off everything with ease her squeaky clean image allows her to do. 

5. Performance result that pays back

  • Taylor is beloved by her fans, keeping her momentum going for over a decade. With sold-out concerts, #1 hits, and many Grammy awards. Her fans (friends) think they know her. Maintaining a considerable following makes it easy to create hype around albums or concert tours.  

Examples how Taylor has surprised her fans

How to write smart strategic objective statements to build a plan around your situational strategy

Using our model for how to write a smart strategic objective statement, let’s look at how the four elements – a) strategic program b) focused opportunity c) market impact and the expected performance result – play out:  

Writing a situational strategic objective statement with the a + b + c + d model

A: Build a strategic program that deploys one of your key resources (financial, people, time or partnerships) against the situation.
B: Find a focused opportunity to enhance or fix one area of your brand, including your brand positioning, advertising, media, innovation, claims, retail, consumer experience or organizational culture. You could also look at pricing, costs, investment decisions or product lineup.
C: Achieve a market impact that directly addresses the brand situation, one of: keep the momentum going, fix it, realignment or a start-up situation.  
D: Achieve a performance result that puts the brand in a better position for the future, either driving one of the eight power drivers or one of the eight profit drivers. 

Examples of writing situational strategic objective statements for Taylor Swift’s continuing to drive momentum plan

Use intimacy of a social media to get closer to fans (a) using well-placed social media comments and face-to-face surprise events (b) to build a core base of loyal brand lovers that help maintain her momentum (c) and drive higher album and concert sales (d).

Invest time in building deeper, and more meaningful songwriting (a) that repositions Taylor as a more mature “indie artist” (b) which will realign her image (c) to maintain a tight bond with her most loyal fans, as Taylor and her fans get older together (d).

The Taylor Swift brand plan

Vision: 

Recording superstar, who is a small-town girl living the big-city celebrity life. 

Goals:

#1 songs, concert sales, social media followers, video views.

Key issues: 
  1. How do we stay connected with our most cherished fans, who see themselves as friends of Taylor? 
  2. How do we continue Taylor’s star power momentum, as Taylor’s core base of fans moves into their 20s and 30s?

Strategies

  1. Use intimacy of a social media to get closer to fans using well-placed social media comments and face-to-face surprise events to build a core base of loyal brand lovers that help maintain her momentum and drive higher album and concert sales.
  2. Invest time in building deeper, and more meaningful songwriting that repositions Taylor as a more mature “indie artist” which will realign her image to maintain a tight bond with her most loyal fans, as Taylor and her fans get older together.
Tactics: 

Maintain strong following, engage with fans directly on social media, create surprise and delight events, use quick videos to show Taylor’s behind-the-scenes life (small-town girl living a big-city celebrity life), stand up on key issues such as bullying and the rights of artists.

Beloved Brands: The playbook to build a brand that consumers will love

What will you get from the Beloved Brands playbook?

In the past two decades, what makes brands successful has changed, and you must change with it. You will learn the fundamentals of managing your brand, with brand love at the core. I will show you how to improve your thinking to unleash your full potential as a brand leader. 

You will learn how to think, define, plan, execute, and analyze, and I provide every tool you will ever need to run your brand. You will find models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 

To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept. 

For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 

To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on execution around creative advertising and media choices. When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

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

 

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

Apple trolls Google over privacy issues with Google’s Sidewalk Labs project

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

I don’t think we know how we feel about privacy until we have a privacy. Then we get hacked, and all of a sudden, we want all the privacy and security we can get. The balance is difficult in today’s world as some of these algorithms help us see products and services that fit our lives. I’ll admit, somedays I wish the algorithms were even better. But I know that comes at a cost. Efficiency verses privacy. 

Apple’s new billboard about privacy reads, “We’re in the business of staying out of yours. Privacy. That’s iPhone.” Now, don’t get me wrong; this is likely a 4/10 on creative message. One big yawn. Until you see where it is placed. Apple has put their billboard right beside Google’s Sidewalk Labs project; which is currently under review over privacy issues. 

 

What is Sidewalk Labs?

Sidewalk Labs is a modern “smart city” urban development project, which will have its first real test case in Toronto. 

For the past few decades, Toronto has had unused waterfront land they could never figure out what they should do with it. In 2017, along comes Google offering investment and partnership in a project called Sidewalk Labs with a vision of creating “a testbed for emerging technologies, materials and processes” to tackle issues such as the sustainability, accessibility, inclusiveness and prosperity of urban communities.” Rather than having to re-wire cities that were created 200 years ago, this is the first time an urban area will be built using what technologies we have in the 21st century. 

Google says Sidewalk Labs is reimagining cities to improve quality of life. Privacy advocates say that really means “Google wants to wire up every inch of the infrastructure so we can collect and sell the data. Following objections, Canada’s privacy commissioner has begun to review the case to make sure everything is onside. 

Personally, I’m pro efficiency. This Sidewalk Labs certainly is revolutionary in how we might live in the future. Have a look for yourself. 

https://www.sidewalklabs.com/#

Privacy appears to be a big deal for Apple

This type of competitive ad seems out of character for Apple, who normally focuses on their own brand and being a huge brand, rather than getting caught up in what their competitors are doing. I guess privacy is a big issue for someone at Apple. Two years ago, Apple went head-to-head with the FBI over privacy issues. The FBI wanted Apple to give them the data in an iPhone that had belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters. Apple refused to hand over the data to the FBI, because of their belief in the right to privacy.

Is this a new divide that big tech brands want to fight over? 

 

At Beloved Brands, this is how we see the Apple brand

The playbook for how Apple became a $1 trillion brand

 

If you love marketing, you will love our Beloved Brands book

Beloved Brands is the playbook for how to build a brand your consumers will love.

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. 

How to use a pricing strategy to help your brand win

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The most beloved brands can use their loyal brand lovers to command a premium price, generating a relatively inelastic price. Moreover, the most beloved brands can get consumers to  trade up to more premium versions of the brand.

With all the love and power the beloved brand generates, it becomes easy to translate that stored power into sales growth, profit, and market valuation.

Here are the eight ways a brand can drive profits: 

  1. Premium pricing
  2. Trading up on price
  3. Lower cost of goods
  4. Lower sales and marketing costs
  5. Stealing competitive users
  6. Getting loyal users to use more
  7. Entering new markets
  8. Finding new uses for the brand.

1. How to use premium pricing

While many marketers think of price as a defensive response to counter inflation or a competitive reaction at the retail shelf, the smartest brand leaders use price as a weapon to drive brand value. 

It is crucial to understand the price/quality relationship of your brand and look for ways to increase the perception of quality. When you find a unique position, which you know motivates consumers, it can differentiate you from competitors. Then you can use the motivation to tighten the bond with your consumers. 

The chart shows a relatively long-term direct correlation between perceived value and price. An indifferent brand has low perceived value and will end up with a much lower price point. A beloved brand can use its emotional connection to drive perceived value and ensure the price premium is perceived as good value. For instance, consumers are undoubtedly willing to pay $5 for a Starbucks latte, $500 for an iPad or $100,000+ for a Mercedes. The same consumers will price shop on brands where they have no feelings. A beloved brand has an inelastic price, which means the quantity demanded does not change very much when the price changes.

  • Price increase: Simply put, brands can execute a price increase when the market or consumers allow the brand to do so. A beloved brand will have an easier time pushing through a price increase as it can use the power of its brand versus consumers, competitors, or channels. When pushing a price increase through retail channel partners, brands usually require proof that the new price will work or that product costs have gone up. Factors that help the brand story include the health of the brand and market.
  • Price decrease: Use this tactic when battling a competitor, in reaction to sluggish economic conditions or retail channel pressure. You can also use an aggressive price decrease when you have a cost advantage, whether that’s manufacturing, materials or distribution. When you have that cost advantage, it may make sense to deploy a lower price to deplete the resources of your competitor.

Price changes always carry a risk of a competitive overreaction. Always consider various potential competitive reactions when doing your financial analysis. Be careful. As difficult as it is to implement a price change, it is almost impossible to change it back.

Build a pricing system to match your brand strategy

Rather than using price as a defensive tool, every brand should manage a pricing strategy that matches their brand strategy. Below is a potential pricing system with five critical questions around price strategy, how to determine and execute your brand’s price, how to build parameters to govern your price corridors, then how to monitor pricing. The complexity of the system can depend on how important or how variable the price is to your brand. Revisit your price strategy annually as part of your deep dive business review.

2. Trade the consumer up or down

Another strategy is to create a range of products at various price levels, with a good/better/best approach that allows the brand to reach up or down to a new segment of consumers. Make sure that you are doing this for the right reason or it could backfire on you.

  • Trading consumers up on price: Make sure your brand can carve out a meaningful difference to create a second or third tier, so consumers can see an apparent reason to move up. Many brands will deploy a good/better/best approach to pricing. When your brand secures trust or a bond with the consumer, it will be easier to use your brand reputation and product performance to move loyal consumers up to the next level. 
  • Trading consumers down: When the brand sees a potential unserved market, it can trade consumers down when the move brings minimal damage to the brand image or reputation. In a tough economy, creating a lower-priced set of products can be a smarter strategy than lowering the overall price of your main brand. Once the economy bounces back, you can discontinue the lower-priced product option.

There are a few cautions around trying to trade consumers up or down. Be careful not to lose your focus on the brand’s core business or image. Stay focused because brands struggle when they try to be all things to everyone. When trading down, try to take costs out of the product to ensure margins rates stay consistent. For a mass brand going through retail channels, it can be challenging to manage multiple price levels. The products with lower sales may receive poor shelf placement and miss out on retailer-merchandising tools.

Financial calculations for a price increase will impact both revenue and profits. You should do an elasticity market research test to find out how your brand will perform. 

In this example, the price goes from $2.50 up to $2.75, only a 10% price increase. I assumed the cost of goods remained flat and I used a forecasted sales decline on units sold. The sales revenue falls slightly, but the profit goes up by $7,500 or by 4.6%.

You can find this thinking in our Beloved Brands book

Beloved Brands is the playbook for how to build a brand your consumers will love.

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. 

When things get fast, brands should use a mini creative brief

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

With social media, digital advertising and search media, marketing is moving faster than ever. You still need a creative brief; however, you might need to try our mini creative brief. We are seeing things speed up, with opportunities come to brand leaders need quick decisions and even faster execution. 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. 

 

Slowing down will make you go faster.

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.

Without a 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 brief.

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. And, 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.

This should allow you to turn all the thinking into a master creative brief, that should be able to serve your brand for up to a year. For each smaller project, you can opt for the mini brief above. 

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.

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You can find all this thinking in our Beloved Brands book

Beloved Brands is the playbook for how to build a brand your consumers will love.

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. 

 
 

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

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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. You should 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. You should dig in on the five specific analytical sections—looking at the marketplace, consumers, channels, competitors and the brand. Draw out conclusions to help set up your brand’s key issues, which you answer in the brand plan.      

Marketplace Analysis:

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.

To kickstart your review of the marketplace, here are 10 probing questions:

  1. How is the category doing relative to the economy?
  2. Look at the last five years and explain each of the ups and downs in the category.
  3. What is driving category growth? Dig into what is holding the category back, the significant open opportunities you can use to your advantage, and the risks to the categories you see in the next few years?
  4. What category segments are growing, declining, or emerging? 
  5. Outline the macro trends influencing or changing this category?  
  6. What is the role of innovation? How fast does it change? Which innovations are transforming the category?
  7. Which regional or geographic trends do you see?
  8. Who holds the balance of power in the category: brands, suppliers, channels, or consumers?
  9. Look at other issues: Operations, inventory, mergers, technology, innovation, investments, global trade.
  10. What is the overall value of the category? Any price changes? Major cost changes?

 

Consumer Analysis:

The deep-dive business review should 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.

To kickstart your review of the consumers, here are 10 probing questions:

  1. Who are your possible target consumer segments? Are they growing? How do you measure them?
  2. Who are the consumers most motivated by what you have to offer?
  3. Who is your current target? How have you determined demographics, behavioral or psychographic, geographic, and usage occasion? Generational trends?
  4. How is your brand performing against KEY segments? Share, sales, panel or funnel data, tracking scores? What about by channel or geography? 
  5. What drives consumer choice? Do you know the primary need states? How do these consumer needs line up to your brand assets? Where can you win with consumers?
  6. Map out the path to purchase and use brand funnels to assess your brand’s performance in moving through each stage. Are consumers changing at stages?  Are you failing at stages? 
  7. What are the emerging consumer trends? How does your brand match up to potentially exploit them? Where would your competitors win?  
  8. What are the consumer’s ideal brand experiences and unmet needs we can address?
  9. What are the consumer’s emotional and functional need states? How does the brand perform against them? How are you doing in tracking studies to meet these benefits?
  10. What is the consumer’s perceptions of your brand and your competitors? Voice of the consumer.  

 

Channel Analysis:

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.

Here are ten probing questions to kickstart your channels review 

  1. How are each the channels performing? Are there regional differences by channel? Channel shifts? 
  2. Are there new and emerging channels? Are there channels on the horizon, not yet developed?
  3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each channel?
  4. Do you understand the strategies of your retail customers?
  5. Do you have the competencies to service your customers?  
  6. Who are the top 5 customers? What are their main strategies? How does our brand fit into that plan?
  7. Who are your primary and secondary customers?  Have you segmented and prioritized for growth versus opportunity? How large are they? What are their growth rates?
  8. How is each customer performing? Outline how profitable each customer for your brand?
  9. How is your brand doing within each customer? What are your brand’s strength and weaknesses?
  10. How is the relationship with the customer? Who is the category captain of your key accounts, and why?

 

Competitor Analysis:

The competitive section fo the deep-dive business review should issect 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.

Here are 10 questions to kickstart your competitor review:

  1. Who are your main competitors? How do they position themselves?
  2. What are your competitor’s use of communication, new products, and go-to-market strategy? How are they executing against each?  
  3. Describe your competitor’s operating model, culture, and organization structure.  
  4. What are your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats? 
  5. How is your competitor doing regarding market share, customer market shares, investment, margins, innovation, culture, share of voice, or any regulatory advantage?    
  6. Map out the competitor’s brand plan: vision, goals, key issues, strategies, and tactics. 
  7. What is the culture at your competitor and what is the role culture plays in their brand?
  8. What is the investment stance and expected growth trajectory of your competitor’s brand? How much and where do they invest? What are the marketing and commercial focus? Find out what is their ROI? 
  9. What are your competitor’s brand strengths, brand assets, and reputation?  
  10. Are there any public materials about the competitor, including strategy and financial results?  

 

Brand Analysis:

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 the deep-dive business review on managing your brand’s health and wealth.

10 probing questions to assess your brand’s performance:

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

 

Summary of the deep-dive business review

Summarize your deep-dive business review, so that it can set up the key issues to tackle in your brand plan: 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

You will find this type of thinking in my book, Beloved Brands.

Beloved Brands Book

I wrote my book, Beloved Brands, as the playbook for how to build a brand your consumers will love.

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

  • How to think strategically
  • Write a brand positioning statement
  • Come up with a brand idea
  • Write a brand plan everyone can follow
  • Write an inspiring creative brief
  • Make decisions on marketing execution
  • Conduct a deep-dive business review
  • Learn finance 101 for marketers

Available on Amazon, Apple Books or Kobo

We have the paperback and e-book version on Amazon. Click here to order: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe  

We are also on Apple Books, which you can click here to order: https://lnkd.in/e6UFisF

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

At Beloved Brands, we help build brands that consumers love and we make brand leaders smarter.

🎈Help create a brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives your brand an ownable competitive advantage.

🎈 Build a marketing plan that forces smart focused decisions to help organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth

🎈Align your marketing execution behind a brand idea that tightens our bond with consumers and moves them through their buying journey

🎈Use a deep-dive 360-degree assessment of your brand’s performance to trigger richer thinking before you write your brand plan

🎈Our brand training program will help realize the full potential of your brand leaders, so they are ready to grow your brand.

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

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

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

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