Old-school marketing no longer works, but the fundamentals still matter

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

No longer can we think about consumers in a strictly functional or logical way. The best brands of today, like Tesla, Apple, Starbucks, Nike, Dove or Airbnb have found a way to capture the imagination of their consumers and take them on a journey of delightful experiences that fosters a deeper emotional and lasting relationship. These modern brands are basing their thinking on the fundamentals of marketing

Brands must treat their most cherished consumers with the respect that establishes trust, enabling consumers to open up to a point where they replace thinking with feeling. The logic of demand evolves into an emotional state of desire, needs become cravings and repeat purchases progress into rituals and turn into a favorite moment in the day. Consumers transform into the most outspoken and loyal brand fans and ambassadors. 

 

Old-school marketing no longer works, but the fundamentals of brand management matter more now than ever

The old logical ways of marketing no longer work in today’s world. These brands feel stuck in the past, talking about gadgets, features, and promotions. They will be friend-zoned by consumers and purchased only when the brand is on sale. The best brands of the previous century were little product inventions that solved small problems consumers did not even realize they had until the product came along. Old-school marketing was about bold logos, catchy jingles, memorable slogans, side-by-side demonstrations, repetitive TV ads, product superiority claims, and expensive battles for shelf space at retail stores. Every marketer focused on how to enter the consumer’s mind. 

Old-school marketers learned the 4Ps of product, place, price, and promotion. It is a useful start, but too product-focused, and it misses out on consumer insights, emotional benefits, and consumer experiences. 

The Crest brand knew that the “Look, mom, no cavities!” TV ads annoyed everyone, yet they also knew it stuck in the consumer’s brain. No one cared how nice the Tide logo looked, as long as it stood out on a crowded grocery shelf. The jingle “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is” was often repeated to embed itself in the consumer’s memory bank. The side-by-side dish detergent advertising that showed spots on the wine glass of a competitor, to shame consumers into using Cascade. Brands that continue to follow only a logical play will fail miserably in today’s emotion-driven marketplace.

New-school brands need to build on the fundeamntals to create a passionate and lasting love for their consumers

How can brand leaders replicate Apple’s brand lovers who line up in the rain to buy the latest iPhone before they even know the phone’s features?  I see Ferrari fans who paint their faces red every weekend, knowing they will likely never drive a Ferrari in their lifetime. There are the ‘Little Monsters’ who believe they are nearly best friends with Lady Gaga. 

It was amazing to witness 400,000 outspoken Tesla brand advocates who put $1,000 down for a car that did not even exist yet. I love the devoted fans of In-N-Out Burger who order animal-style burgers off the secret menu. Every brand should want this type of passion and power with their consumers.

Consumers have changed but the fundamentals remain the same

It takes a smart strategy to balance the rational and emotional management of the brand-to-consumer relationship. These beloved brands are so exceptional because of how well they treat their most loyal consumers. They make them feel loved. Being consumer-centric has been part of the fundamentals of marketing for a centruy.  

The consumers of today must be won over. They are surrounded by the clutter of 5,000 brand messages a day that fight for a glimpse of their attention. That is 1.8 million per year or one message every 11 waking seconds. 

Consumers are continuously distracted—walking, talking, texting, searching, watching, replying—and all at the same time. They glance past most brand messages all day long. Their brain quickly rejects boring, irrelevant, or unnecessary messages. Brands must capture the consumer’s imagination right away, with a brand idea that is simple, unique. It must create as much excitement as a first-time encounter. 

Consumers are tired of being burned by broken brand promises. Once lied to, their well-guarded instincts begin to doubt first, test second, and at any point, they will cast aside any brand that does not live up to the original promise that captured them on the first encounter. A brand must be worthy of love. The best brands of today have a soul that exists deep within the culture of the brand organization. 

Brands must be consumer focused. The brand’s purpose must be able to explain why the people who work behind the scenes of the brand come to work every day so energized and ready to over-deliver on the brand’s behalf. This purpose becomes a firm conviction, with inner motivations, beliefs, and values that influences and inspires every employee to want to be part of the brand. This brand conviction must be so firm that the brand would never make a choice that directly contradicts their internal belief system. Consumers start to see, understand, and appreciate the level of conviction with the brand. 

Brands must listen, observe, and start to know the thoughts of their consumer before they even think it. Not only does the brand meet their functional needs, but the brand must also heroically beat down the consumer’s enemy that torments their life, every day. 

The brand must show up consistently at every consumer touchpoint, whether it is the promise the brand makes, the stories they tell, the innovation designed to impress consumers, the happy purchase moments or the delightful experiences that make consumers want to tell their friends the brand story. The consumer keeps track to make sure the brand delivers before the consumer is willing to commit. Only then will the consumer become willing to open up and trust the brand. 

The integrity of the soul of the brand helps tighten the consumer’s unshakable bond with that brand. Brands have to do the little things that matter, to show they love their consumer. Every time the brand over-delivers on their promise, it adds a little fuel to the romance. 

Over time, the brand must weave itself into the most critical moments of the consumer’s lives, and become part of the most cherished stories and memories within the consumer’s heart. In today’s cluttered brand world, the pathway to brand success is all about building relationships with your most cherished consumers.

A brand idea must be interesting, simple, unique, inspiring, motivating, and own-able. The brand idea must attract and move consumers

The first connection point for consumers with a brand is that moment when they see a brand idea worth engaging the brand. The brand almost jumps off the shelf, grips the audience’s attention to itself on a TV ad, or compels consumers to click on a digital ad. The brand has to generate interest very quickly.  

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

That is why the brand idea should be unique and ownable to stand out amid the clutter, and the brand can see enough rich potential to build their entire business around the idea. The idea should inspire the team working behind the scenes to deliver amazing consumer experiences. The idea must be motivating to consumers, so the brand can move consumers to see, think, feel, or act in positive ways that benefit the brand. 

A brand idea must have enough longevity to last 5 to 10 years and enough flexibility to show consistency no matter what media options you choose. The idea must provide a common link across the entire product line-up. Everything you do should deliver the brand idea.

The brand has to show up the same way to everyone, no matter where it shows up. Even as the brand leader expands on the idea, whether telling the brand story over 60 seconds, 30 minutes or over the lifetime of the brand, it must tell the same story. 

When the idea works best, the most far-reaching sales rep, the scientist in the lab, the plant manager or the customer service rep must all articulate the brand idea, in the same way, using the same chosen words. Every time a consumer engages with the brand, they must see, hear and feel the same brand idea. Each positive interaction further tightens their bond with that brand.

Use your brand idea to organize everything you do

As a brand leader, you have five consumer touchpoints to align and manage, including the brand promise, brand story, product innovation, the path to the purchase moment, and the overall consumer experience. The brand idea map shows you how to align all five consumer touchpoints. This thinking is part of the new fundamentals.

  • The brand promise connects with consumers and separates your brand from competitors. The promise must position the brand as interesting and unique, utilizing brand positioning work to define the target market, the balance of functional and emotional benefits, along with key support points.
  • The brand story helps the brand stand out from the pack and gain the consumer’s consideration for purchase. The brand idea must push consumers to see, think, feel, or act differently than before they saw the brand message. 
  • Innovation must help the brand stay on top of the latest trends in technology, consumer need states, distribution, and competitive activity. A brand cannot stand still. The brand idea should act as an internal beacon to help inspire the product development team to come up with new ways to captivate consumers.
  • The purchase moment transforms the awareness and consideration into a purchase. The brand idea ensures everyone along the path to purchase delivers the same brand message, using retail and selling strategies to influence consumers. 
  • Create consumer experiences that overdeliver the promise, driving repeat purchase, and future consumer loyalty. When you partner with HR, the brand idea inspires the culture and organization, influencing hiring decisions, service values, and motivation of the operations teams who deliver the experience.

It takes a fundamentally strategic mind to figure out brand love

To show the differences in how consumers feel about a brand as they move through five stages, I created the brand love curve. It defines consumers’ feelings as unknown, indifferent, like it, love it and onto the beloved brand status.

For unknown brands, the strategic focus should be to stand out so consumers will notice the brand within a crowded brand world. For indifferent brands, the strategy must establish the brand in the consumer’s mind so they can see a clear point of difference. At the like it stage, the strategy is to separate the brand from the pack, creating happy experiences that build a trusted following. At the love it stage, the focus shifts to tugging at heartstrings to tighten the bond with the most loyal brand fans. At the beloved brand stage, the strategic challenge is to create outspoken, loyal brand fans who are willing to whisper to their friends on the brand’s behalf.

 

20 consumer activities

The brand love curve should guide strategic and tactical decisions that go into the writing of your annual brand plan. Here are 20 potential brand activities that match up to where your brand sits on the curve and how to move your brand to the next stage. 

The fundamentals of brand management matter more now than ever.

Today’s marketers have become so busy, as they run from meeting to meeting, they have become a little overwhelmed and confused. They have no time to think. Marketing has become about ‘get stuff done,’ never taking the time to stop and ask if it is the right stuff to do. 

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

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

My goal in writing this book is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. I know your role and the challenges you face. I have been in your shoes. I will share everything I have learned in my 20 years in the trenches of brand management. Using the fundamentals of marekting will help you be successful.

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

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

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

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

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

A simple way to find meaningful consumer insights that connect

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Consumer insights are little secrets hidden beneath the surface, which explain the underlying behaviors, motivations, pain points, and emotions of your consumers. Your consumers may not even be able to explain the insight until you play it back to them. You want consumers to say, “Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel.” Brands must think of consumer insights as a potential competitive advantage, equal in importance to intellectual property.

As a brand leader, it is not about perfecting the consumer insight, but challenging yourself to always be on the lookout for insights, so you read, listen, observe, feel and summarize the little secrets you find out about consumers. Hopefully, you will have people around you who can perfect the insights. The hunt for insights is as important as the find as it puts you into a consumer centric mindset. 

 

How to find smart ownable insights that will engage and move consumers

Go deep to understand and explain trends lying beneath the data. Think like a therapist: Listen, observe, collect, challenge, and carefully draw conclusions you can play back to the consumer for assurance. Use the voice of the consumer, social media, to listen and use our emotional cheat sheet to draw conclusions. 

Hunt through the data to draw hypothetical insights. The dictionary definition of the word insight is “seeing below the surface.” Sort through every data point, including market share information, panel data, testing and tracking results, brand funnel, customer sales, etc. With each data point, keep digging until you see a data break that needs explaining. Ask yourself, “So what does that mean for the consumer?” over and over until you see the “Why it matters” come to life and explain the cause of the consumer’s behavior.

Make sure it fits with your consumer’s life. Try to map out a day-in-the-life, weekly life or even the life stages your consumers goes through to understand their insights and pain points. Take a holistic view of the consumer, to ensure you figure out where your brand fits in with their life. Ask questions that force you to go deeper, avoiding clichés that keep you stuck at the surface level and stop you from getting to the sincere, rich, and meaningful consumer insights.

Find something that is an inspiring connection to engage and move consumers. We need to find that magic secret, going deep below to show the consumer we get them. Insights enable brands to connect with their consumers on a deeper emotional level, showing ‘we get you.’

When you do it right, smart consumer insights get consumers to stop and listen to your brand’s promise or brand story, engage in the latest innovation and believe the consumer experiences fits perfect with their life.

Our 360-degree mining for consumer insights

Building a complete picture of your consumer by looking at multiple sources is an excellent methodology to find consumer insights. Start with market data, and then add your observations, the voice of the consumer, emotional need states, and life moments:  

  1. What we can read: Use available data such as market share results, tracking studies, or category trends. Look for underlying explanations of the data breaks, drivers, inhibitors, as well as new trends among consumers, channels, and competitors. Tell the story beneath the data.
  2. What we see: Use observations of consumer reactions, coming from focus groups, product tests, advertising testing, and direct consumer engagements to add to the insights. Watch how consumers respond.
  3. What we sense: Listen to the voice of the consumer (VOC), assessing consumer comments on social media, brand reviews, and market research. Listen for specific word choices, tone, and phrases the consumer’s use.
  4. What we feel: Use observations and listening to match the emotional need states with how the use of your brand makes them feel.
  5. Day-in-the-life moments: Map out the consumer’s life with explanations of underlying behaviors, motivations, pain points, and emotions at any moment of the day or week. Conclude how parts of their life could impact their path to purchase.

Once you have completed all five areas of the 360-degree mining process, get in the consumer’s shoes, observe, listen, and understand how they think, act, feel, and behave. Be empathetic to their fears, motivations, frustrations, and desires. Learn their language and use their voice. Learn the secrets that only they know, even if they cannot explain. Insights are a great way to demonstrate “We know you” because the number one reason consumers buy a brand simply that “It is a brand for me.”

 

Case study: Consumer insights for quitting smoking

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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.”  

How those consumer insights play out for Nicoderm

Based on those consumer insights for quitting smoking, this is a TV ad we made when I was at Johnson and Johnson. This spot was one of the highest tested spots for Ipsos consumer testing, and it won J&J’s award for best global ad back in 2009. See how we bring that “I become the worst version of myself” consumer insight to life in the TV ad. 

Nicoderm Flight Attendant TV Ad

Consumer insights should show up everywhere on the brand

Consumer insights help you connect with what’s going on with your consumer. You should use consumer insights on every new product innovation concept or every creative brief. Use them with your sales teams to help them sell or service delivery teams to help them deliver exceptional consumer experiences. . 

Read how your consumer insights work can help set up your brand positioning statement

How to create a winning brand positioning statement

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Horton’s doing everything except fix what is obvious to everyone

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

For the last five years, the Tim Horton’s brand has been slipping fast. Once the pride and representation of what it means to be Canadian, Tim’s now feels anything but. This timeline coincides with the time they have been owned and operated by the cost-slashing, private equity company, 3G Capital. While Tim’s has kept robust advertising budgets and constant new product offerings, their behavior towards their franchisees has been hostile, and in turn, the franchisees’ behavior toward employees has been despicable. Wage fights, canceled coffee breaks, and layoffs have trickled into the news. How does a company that sells coffee cancel coffee breaks? The environment created by the Tim Horton’s toxic culture is impacting the consumer experience. With a disgruntled workforce, consumers rarely hear “please” or “thank you” and never see a smile. Compared to the warmth of a Starbucks experience, going to Tim’s now feels cold and hollow. The consumer experience is anything but how Canadians see themselves, and the brand continues to tumble. 

What is Tim’s doing to address the issues with their employees? So far, they have launched a meatless burger, launched into China, established a rather pathetic loyalty card, and now have a bad TV ad about a guy who sips 300 cups a day. In summary, they have done everything possible to run away from their problem, hoping it goes away. 

As leaders, we always have to keep in mind that the problems that we hope go away by themselves tend to come back by themselves even bigger. Tim’s reluctance to address the consumer experience is not helping the problem go away. 

Tim Horton's has an incredible tight bond with Canadians

It has always been oddly funny at the tight bond Canadians have had with Tim Horton’s. The same pride that Italians have with Ferrari, Canadians had with a coffee and donut shop. Ten years ago, this “True Patriot Love” ad, which used a line from Canada’s national anthem perfectly fit their brand. Now, they couldn’t get away with running this ad. 

Canadian author Pierre Berton once wrote: “In so many ways, the story of Tim Hortons is the essential Canadian story. It is a story of success and tragedy, of big dreams and small towns, of old-fashioned values and tough-fisted business, of hard work and hockey.”

 

As a Canadian, we took an odd pride in Tim Horton’s. At work, people would go on a Timmies run. Parents take a cup of coffee to the local hockey arena to watch their kids play hockey. On the way to work, people build in 5-10 minutes into their drive so they could wait in line at the Tim’s drive-thru. When Tim Horton’s went public, the stock quickly soared. I remember a friend saying they didn’t mind waiting in the drive-thru because they owned some Tim’s stock, and the value of the stock would go up more than the price of the cup of coffee they were buying that day.

One of Tim's heart-warming TV ads

The best brands manage each of the consumer touchpoints

Brand leaders must manage the consistent delivery of the brand idea over 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.

There are five main touchpoints that 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.

 

Not only should your brand idea steer all the consumer touchpoints, but it also makes an excellent audit for where you are not delivering the brand idea. For Tim Horton’s, they keep spending their effort on the brand promise and story; they have a confusing innovation, and a failure at the purchase moment and consumer experience. I see brands like Tim’s think that a new ad or new product can fix what is obviously frustrating to consumers. Tim’s keep ignoring the obvious, over and over again. Fix your relationship with your franchisees and push them to fix their relationship with their employees, and use your brand to guide a best-in-class consumer experience. 

 

Tim's fight with franchisees

Over the last decade, the relationship with Tim’s and their franchisees have gotten worse. Things got even worse in 2018 as Ontario raised the minimum wage from $11.90 an hour up to $14.00 an hour. While McDonald’s and Starbucks allowed menu price increases to help offset the wage increases, Tim’s refused. They squeezed the franchisee by an average of $7,000 an hour. In turn, franchisees responded by cutting employee benefits such as paid coffee breaks and contributions to health plans. Tim’s started to make the news for the wrong reasons: a beloved Canadian coffee brand cutting out coffee breaks for employees. One of the restaurants had their staff go on strike over a 10 cent an hour dispute. Over the last two years, there have been around 50 demonstrations against Tim Horton’s were held across Canada. As Tim Horton’s should be standing for the average Canadian, the visual of the average Canadian is fighting back against them destroys any good feelings. 

 

Tim Horton’s released a foolish statement against the protests which threw their franchisees under the bus. “These recent actions by a few restaurant owners, and the unauthorized statements made to the media by a ‘rogue group’ claiming to speak on behalf of Tim Hortons, do not reflect the values of our brand, the views of our company or the views of the overwhelming majority of our dedicated and hard-working restaurant owners.” This statement adds just more fuel to the lousy relationship between Tim’s and their franchisees. 

The Tim's brand reputation continues to hemorrhage

In May 2018, the Reputation Institute reported that Tim Hortons had fallen from 13th to 67th in its study of Canada’s most reputable companies. Digging in deeper, an Ipsos study (below) showed that 35% of consumers said their opinion of Tim’s has gone down over the past five years. That number should be setting off alarm bells for Tim Horton’s. The data shows 25% say the service has gotten worse, and 19% say the coffee has gotten worse. The coffee is still the same, but when our feelings over the brand and the consumer experience gets worse, it makes consumers re-evaluate everything about the brand. In terms of the most performance results, Tim Hortons’ sales have fallen 1.5% over the past twelve months.

Instead of fixing their problems, here's what Tim's has been doing

  • Tim’s launched one outlet in China with plans for a whopping two more. Compared to 3,000 Starbucks in China, these two locations won’t make any dent. 
  • Tim’s launched a meatless burger, even though they don’t sell a meat burger. This confusing launch made no sense. It feels like a desperate attempt to capitalize on a trend, not a long-term strategy. Months later, Tim’s discontinued the meatless burger. 
  • Tim’s also launched a meatless sausage in a wrap or a biscuit. While this launch is trying to appeal to the rapid growth of vegans and vegetarians, the meatless sausage has dairy cheese and an egg. That isn’t very smart. Months later, Tim’s discontinued the meatless sausage. 
  • Tim’s launched a new loyalty card that gives consumers a free coffee or donut every 7th purchase. The problem is that consumers have begun noticing that not every location is willing to honor the loyalty card. This poor execution goes back to the poor relationship between Tim’s and their franchisees. 
  • Tim’s launched a fake high-end cafe as a stunt in downtown Toronto. There was no Tim’s branding, but it gave the illusion of a small local cafe, yet it was selling the same products as a typical Tim’s. While the stunt was trying to say their products are good enough to sell a high-end cafe, isn’t the stunt just saying Tim’s has done such a lousy job at their brand image that people will pay more for unbranded Tim’s products than they will pay for branded Tim’s products. 
  • This year, they launched a new breakfast cereal, in a partnership with Post cereals. This won’t fix the bad customer service.

As a marketer, it is hard to watch Tim’s continue to run away from their problems as the brand continues to fall.

Marketing your brand to your own employees

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

The best brands should spend as much effort marketing internally, so everyone at your company understands and shares the idea behind your brand, as your people will be the ones who deliver your brand’s promise to your customers.

We usually think of marketing as messages directed only to the customers. For a service-oriented brand like Tim’s, I recommend equal effort in the marketing to your own employees, as they are the front-line face of your brand, and their behaviors will establish your brand’s reputation. 

Use your internal brand communications tools to drive a shared definition of the brand idea, as well as getting everyone to articulate how their role delivers that brand idea. Give the external and internal brand story equal importance to the customer experience you create for your brand. Everyone who works on the brand should use the brand idea as inspiration to guide consistent 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 customer. Everyone needs a shared 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 customer. Develop a list of service values, behaviors, and processes to deliver the brand idea throughout your organization. 

Building your brand culture

Brand 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 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 because they will feel included, heard, and invested in your brand’s success. 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.

Tim Horton's has a long way to go to fix their culture and consumer experience

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

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

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

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

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

How to successfully capture attention with your advertising

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The best way to earn the attention of consumers within the cluttered media world is to take a risk. Do something creatively different from what consumers expect, which entertains, takes advantage of the media, and is shareable for consumers to influence others.

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

 

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

Here are four questions to ask:

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

1. Be incongruent with what consumers expect

This technique is an excellent choice to help brands stand out from the clutter. Consumers notice when you are so different from what they expect or so different from what they are watching at the moment. Many brand leaders are afraid of this technique because it is a higher risk, less certain type of creative.

A great example of being incongruent is the Hathaway Shirt “Man in the eye patch” print ad. The eye patch is a simple addition to a very dull visual of a man in a shirt. David Ogilvy picked up a few eye patches on the way to the photo shoot. This unorthodox visual made the ad stand out and the brand famous. It was a lasting brand visual for decades.

 

Another fantastic ad is the “Think small” campaign for the Volkswagen Beetle. When every other car was going big, the VW Bug went small. The ad does two things to capture our minds. First, it plays on the commonly known phrase, “Think big.” Second, the extreme use of white space, with a barely visible car, is equally arresting. It delivers a message of simplicity and minimalism, with the advantages of a small car down below. AdAge magazine ranked this ad as the best ad of the twentieth century. 

 

The common link is the use of incongruent visuals and copy to draw our attention. We can learn a lot from historical ads. With the modern-day clutter of digital media, this is a recommended technique to use to gain the consumer’s attention.

How comfortable are you with polarizing advertising? Below is an incongruent ad with message is a perfect fit for the L’Oréal brand. The main headline of “This is an ad for men.” attracts our eye because it doesn’t match what we see in the main visual. It draws our eye into the body copy, “Hire more women in leadership roles. We are all worth it.” 

Oh, and sorry men, the message is meant for you, but this is actually an ad for women.  

While we can debate whether K-Mart’s delivery strategy will make any difference, the ad itself does an amazing job using incongruent creative that makes your brain think they are swearing on TV. 

2. Entertain consumers

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Another technique to gain attention is to make viewers laugh, cry, or dance. People engage media to be entertained. Make your ad part of the entertainment. Be aware of the evolution of the art of creativity to make sure you match the latest type of entertainment. As much as movies, TV, or music evolve, so should your ads. 

The Old Spice “Smell like a man” campaign’s quirky, over-the-top humor is so different, it captured immense attention and helped P&G reinvigorate the Old Spice brand. The ad uses a series of quick cuts, putting the actor in crazy circumstances. His dry, over-the-top delivery adds to the humor.

I love Budweiser’s “Wassup” campaign because it just makes you laugh. The ad offers zero message, but everyone knows Budweiser, so it is a great way to stay top of mind. The ad is highly entertaining and easily breaks through the clutter of other beer ads. The “Wassup” phrase became part of pop culture, especially among Budweiser’s 20-something core target. 

3. Use media choice to your brand’s full advantage

Put your ads where your consumers are willing to see, listen, and engage, matched with creativity to take advantage of the media choice.  

For the last decade, John Lewis, the UK department store retailer, has owned the most beloved Christmas ad of the season. It has become such fan favorites the media has leaked the launch date and song choice. These ads generate 50 million views online per year. While retailers struggle around the world, John Lewis used its emotional bond to fuel continuous growth.

With such an impulse product, McDonald’s has become the master of outdoor ads, with a playful spirit, designed to trigger your hunger for McDonald’s products. 

Brands are using social media to the full advantage. When the lights went out in the 2013 Super  Bowl, Oreo was quick to tweet this out, capturing the right humour of consumers. When KFC ran out of chicken, they got a bit creative with their apology making fun of themselves. 

4. Create shareable content

Over the last decade, everything has become about creating content that is so engaging consumers want to share it on social media. The key is to use high impact storytelling ads that are highly entertaining, deeply emotional, or inspiring enough to engage and captivate consumers.  

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

One of the more modern approaches was Red Bull’s live coverage and subsequent viral videos of Felix Baumgartner jumping out of a rocket ship 24 miles above the earth. The video fits very nicely with the target market and the brand. Red Bull is a brand sponsor of many extreme sports, with this being the most extreme sport possible. While, legally, Red Bull is no longer allowed to say, “Red Bull gives you wings,” this event positively screams the brand idea, loud and clear. With millions watching the live streaming video online and over 100 million watching videos on YouTube, this stunt was a huge attention getter for Red Bull.

This type of learning can be found in our Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks

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

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

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

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

The 10 best Super Bowl ads of all time

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

We have looked at all the Super Bowl Ads over the years, and used our ABC’s model to judge, which focuses on: Attention, Brand Link Communication, and Stickiness.

Brand leaders who are good at advertising can get great ads on the air and keep bad ads off the air.

You need to make decisions to find the sweet spot where your brand’s advertising is both different and smart. To be different, you need to achieve a branded breakthrough, using creativity to capture consumers. Gain their attention amid the market clutter and link your brand closer to the story. To be smart, you need a motivating message to communicate the main message memorable to connect with consumers, and make the ad stick enough to move them to see, think, feel, or act differently than before they saw the ad.

Our ABCs approach to advertising

At Beloved Brands, we believe that advertising combines Branded Breakthrough (how you say it) and Moveable Messaging (what you say). Taking this one step further, the execution has to breaks through the clutter (Attention) and link closely to the brand name (Branding). The execution must communicate the main message (Communication) and makes the brand seem different (Stickiness)

Here are the top 10 Super Bowl ads of all time

Coke: Mean Joe Greene 1979

Bit of that 1970s “cheese” for you, but I remember this one from my teens. Strong on communication through story-telling and enough cheesiness to make it stick. The spot became as iconic as the drink itself.

Apple 1984

There’s a great story of this ad in the Steve Jobs book–how the board never wanted to run it and they lied about the media commitment. This was one of the first big Super Bowl ads, that changed the way advertisers saw the Super Bowl slots. Movie Quality of the filming does a great job in gaining Attention and Stickiness as it has stood the test of time for 30 years. A bit weak on communication, but that might have more to do with the lack of things to say about the product, so they led more with brand image and attitude as the core distinctiveness. Wonder why Apple doesn’t do Super Bowl ads now, as it seems like the perfect media choice for them.

 

McDonald's: Jordan/Bird, 1992

This one had a lot of breakthrough and left us with the phrase “nothing but net”. With these two celebrities at their peak, it was high on attention, strong storytelling, pretty good branding and had some phrasing that had some stickiness for years in the basketball community.

Pepsi: Cindy Crawford 1992

Not much needs to be said about this one, other than that they repeated this 10 years later and she still looked the same. Definitely, attention-getting with a very simple message communication that helped drive brand link. Not a lot of stickiness for consumers, but honestly, it really is a promotional spot for a new can.

Budweiser Whazzup, 1999

 

The simplicity of this one, but it really does capture a male-bonding insight of how guys do interact with their buddies. A hilarious ad was exceptional at Attention and certainly Stickiness as everyone was saying this phrase for a year. Didn’t really communicate much.

Budweiser 9/11 Tribute, 2002

Even after all these years, this one might bring a tear to your eye. Months after the tragedy of 9/11, this one takes the American icons of Budweiser and the Clydesdales marching through the streets of America and gives a nice salute to NYC. High on Attention, with deep emotions, strong Brand cues, and certainly the storytelling aided the Communication. Even though only shown once, high on Stickiness as it still really brings back those emotions.

Google: Paris 2009

The beautiful ad that shows the power of Google as an enabling brand to your life. A great example of using quietness to drive Attention. The Branding is obviously incredible, but as it links nicely to the storytelling that Communicates how Google is part of everyone’s life. The emotional feelings certainly aid the Stickiness. This is one of the best ads I’ve ever seen.

 

Snicker's Betty White, 2010

Whatever Betty was paid, she’s made millions since because of this spot. Quickly after this one, the power of a Facebook page demanded that Betty host Saturday Night Live. A great little spot that was incredible on Attention and Stickiness. Communication is a Big Idea for the brand and kick-started a campaign that has lasted for years, even if Snickers has yet to fully capture in their pool outs on this campaign.

It's a Tide Ad, 2018

I never thought I’d list a Tide ad, but the media creativity Tide used really broke through and made us laugh. I started to think everything was a Tide ad.

Ram Farmer 2013

One of my fav ads of all time, and takes such a huge artistic risk by launching such a quiet ad that really tugs at the heart, when most other brands are doing slapstick ads. The shrill voice of Paul Harvey captures the Attention, especially against all the slapstick ads. The Communication of “Americana” comes through, and whether you’re a farmer or not, if you are a hard-working American, this should be your truck!!!

Find ads that are different and smart

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

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

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

smart different

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

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

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

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

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

How you think and how you decide will define how you lead

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

There are many models to help you figure out who you are. For brand management, I will simplify it with two questions: 

  1. How do you think; fast or slow
  2. How do you make decisions; rational or emotional 

This model leads to four marketing leadership styles: the strategic thinker, the instinctual thinker, the consensus socializer, and the taskmaster who gets stuff done. The best Brand Leaders can maneuver with each of these styles. The trick for success is to use the right style at the right leadership moment. We will use these models at various points in this book to challenge you to be more flexible in how you show up. 

 

When facing a challenging strategic situation, use slow thinking with difficult and interruptive questions that force you to dig deeper and uncover the issues hidden beneath the surface. When deciding on the creative marketing execution, use faster thinking with your common sense, gut instincts that reside at the surface level.

Bring a rational and emotional approach to your decisions. When it comes to the business side of a brand, whether it is analytics, forecasting, strategy or financial, use logic to compare choices so you can make a rational decision. When working through the creativity of marketing, use your emotions. Do you love it? Will you be proud of the work? Do you want this work to be your legacy?

How you think and how you make decisions

We each have a natural style, and it can inform how we show up in a marketing role. Use your natural style to your advantage. Equally, we likely have a gap or blindspot with one of these styles. Unless you address your gap, it can become glaring as you face pressure points or when you try to move up to a more senior level. 

My natural style was the instinctual thinker, who went with quick, emotional gut instincts, who also had task-master abilities to get things done. With experience, I learned to slow down and add the strategic thinking style at the more senior levels. I will admit to a blind spot on the consensus socializer. I was a driver-type leader, but with a lower EQ, unable to observe or hear the personal objections of others, especially coming from the other functional areas. 

Where is your natural style, and where is your gap? How can you maneuver from one style to the next? 

Use the right style at the right time

In my Beloved Brands book, I introduced my ThinkBox concept, which I have borrowed from sports. For instance, in golf, using the ThinkBox forces you to assess the overall situation you face as you consider everything you are facing before taking the shot. Look at any lakes or bunkers in the way, the distance, wind condition, or how well you are playing that day. Then, decide on your shot strategy. 

As you move to a PlayBox, visualize the ideal shot, think and feel your way through the mechanics of your swing, and trust you are making the right shot. Do not over-think the strategy during your execution. In golf, thinking while swinging is a sure-fire way to end up in the lake you are trying to avoid.  

Start with a strategic thinking style, with interruptive questions to dig in and assess your brand’s core strength, the brand’s relationship with consumers, competitive activity in the marketplace, and the business situation you face. Turn your thinking into the best strategic questions that will lead to smarter, creative marketing solutions. 

 

Once you see the creative solutions, you move to the Execution PlayBox, using your instincts and gut-feel to think and feel your way to a decision. Once you have the decision, you now shift to a consensus socializer style, as you need to sell your ideas throughout the organization. Finally, after gaining approval, you become the taskmaster who gets it done by staying organized, hits key milestones, and pushes people to deliver. As in the golf analogy, avoid revisiting your strategy while you moving through the Execution PlayBox stage.

Strategic Thinkers see questions before they look for answers

Ever hear someone say, “That’s a good question?”  It usually means someone has just asked an interruptive question, designed to slow everyone’s thinking, so they reflect and plan before they act. 

The strategic thinking side of marketing is logical and has to map out a range of decision trees that intersect, by imagining how events will play out in the future. Use logic to separate through the options, never getting too emotionally attached to an answer. 

The trick to being strategic is to think slowly with strategy. If you move too quickly on brand strategy, you will be unable to see the insights beneath the surface, and you risk solving the wrong problem. 

On the other hand, the risk of being only strategic is that, if you think too long, you may spiral around, unable to decide. Moreover, you may miss an opportunity window. Don’t be the smart guy who never gets anything done.

Five ways to slow your brain down to think more strategically

  1. Find your own thinking time. My best thinking never happens when I am at my desk or stuck in a meeting. Change your pace by going for a walk at lunch or a drive to get away from it all. There is proof that performing routine tasks like gardening or working out will free up the thinking part of your brain.  
  2. Organize your week to fit your thinking pace. Start the week with quick updates on Monday to clear your mind for the rest of the week. Our jobs get in the way of thinking time. You can block off a few hour-long “thinking meetings” with yourself, and focus the hour on one problem at a time.
  3. Do the deep thinking before it gets to a decision point. Always be digging deep into the analytics to stay aware, prepare yourself, no matter your level. Summarize every data point into a key issue question. 
  4. Be the one who asks the best questions. Too many marketers try to impress with the best answers. Next time, stump the room with the best questions to slow your team down and force them to think.
  5. Proactively meet your cross-functional teams. Listen to their problems as they bubble up, rather than wait for a pressure point where emotions can escalate into conflict. Emotions can get in the way of logic. Once you hear the issues, you can go back with logical solutions, so you both win.

Instinctual Thinkers inspire executional greatness

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

As the brand leader, when you see new ideas coming from your team, the first thing you should ask is, “Do you love it?” as the first filter for what makes great work. Great brand leaders can never settle for O.K. Each time you reject O.K., the work naturally gets better. It will make your expectations higher. When you love your work, you will fight for it, with your agency, your boss, or anyone in the way. On the other hand, if you do not love the work, how can you ever expect your consumers to love your brand? Your experts will see your passion shining through. The best instinctual leaders use their gut-instincts to inspire creativity and judge which ideas will work. They move fast, using their impulsive and intuitive gut feel. They choose emotion over logic.

 

Use your fast brain

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

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

I created a gut instincts checklist to help get you back to where you should be. Relax. Smile. Have fun. The gut instincts checklist forces you to explore your passion for the idea, because “do you love it?  is the ultimate bar for an idea to pass. Then, make sure it delivers the strategy you have been working on for months. Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes, and think whether the work will motivate them to act whether you want them to see, think, do, or feel differently than before they saw the work. Use your common sense, to make sure the idea breaks through the clutter of the market, is a fit with the brand, communicates the main message, and will it stick in the minds and hearts of consumers? Finally, will you be proud of this work? Pride goes beyond passion because the best marketers I have seen want to leave a legacy of outstanding work. 

Five ways to speed up your brain to use your instincts to their fullest

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

Consensus Socializers align everyone who works on the brand

While we don’t make the product, we don’t sell the product or create the ads, we do touch everything that goes into the marketplace and we make every decision. All of our work is done through other people. Our greatness as a brand leader has to come from the experts we engage, so they will be inspired to reach for their own greatness and apply it to our brand. Brand management has been built on a hub-and-spoke system, with a team of experts surrounding the generalist brand leader.

Consensus socializers are able to move ideas and projects through an organization. Consensus socializers move slowly, use their emotional instincts, staying aware of what others think. You need a high EQ, to listen, maneuver and gain alignment across a complex organization. Regardless of strategy or execution, without alignment, you could run into road blocks that halt any progress on the brand. 

As the brand leader, you must work with those experts in every function in the organization, as well as the partners outside your company that support the brand. There is nothing worse than the no-it-all brand manager who overrides their functional experts on the team. Early in my marketing career, I realized I can learn more from the functional experts than what I could ever learn from my boss. As I moved up, before I entered a meeting with these experts, I would remind myself I was the least knowledgeable person in the room. I also learned every expert wanted me to make the decision. It takes a unique skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide, without any expertise at all.

In terms of socializing the work, you must sell in your ideas to gain alignment and approval. As you push for marketing work that is smart and different, the best ideas will meet the most resistance from those in your organization, who find comfort in doing the “same old thing” that worked before. In my experience, any idea that easily sails through the approval stages normally bombs in the marketplace. Yet, every great idea I was ever part of needed the biggest fights to gain approval. 

Five ways to be better with a consensus socializer leadership style

  1. Use probing questions to help you understand. Use a helicopter style to ask your experts to explain the what, why, and how to help you dig deeper into the details until you feel you have enough information, then move back up to the surface level with a summary conclusion that allows you to make a decision. 
  2. Tap into the motivations of your experts. While you are trying to grow your brand, your sales leaders need to manage their relationship with their channel customer, your supply chain manufacturing partners wants low forecasting errors and efficient production, and your ad agency needs to keep their creative team motivated.  Instead of running into a conflict of objectives, try to find an alignment where you both win.  
  3. Ask everyone to give their best. When you elevate the importance of an expert’s work on the overall outcome of your brand, you will tap into their personal pride in delivering greatness on your behalf. To me, tapping into pride is one of the greatest motivators you can use. Everyone wants to do a great job. Your role as the brand leader is to enable greatness. 
  4. Sell in your work. My gap with the consensus socializer style was the belief that the best answers were obvious to everyone. That’s not true. As the brand leader, you must always be selling to convince everyone in the organization to follow you. You must sell ideas into your boss, who many times will gravitate to the safe, and trusted direction. Where possible, use facts. Where not, use conviction. It will work.  
  5. You make the decisions. The best experts advise, but will never decide on your behalf. They want you to be the one to make the decision.  

Task Masters use project management to make things happen

At the heart of being a successful task master is the realization there is a business to run. Without staying focused on the end goal, your strategic thinking and creative instincts can end up wasted, resulting in missed opportunities. Task masters stay in control to get things done, keep projects on time and on budget. To stay in control, you must be organized and understand how each milestone impacts the other. You can never lose sight of the end goal, efficiently knocking down roadblocks, to keep everyone else on track with time and budgets.

When you overly rely on the task master style, you can destroy the deeper thinking and creativity in the name of hitting the deadline. You can end up with hollow thinking,  with OK creativity and OK business results.

For every chosen marketing activity, your project plan should list the specifics around the project owner, support team, project budget, goals, milestones, and hurdles. When you have a team running your brand, these project plans are a very efficient way to manage your people and ensure the specific projects remain on track. This format sets up regular check-in meetings with your staff to keep every project moving towards completion.

Five ways to be a use a task master style to make it happen

  1. Set high standards for you and the team. Lead by example in how you hold yourself to the highest standers, and hold your team to consistently high standards of work in analytics, strategic thinking, planning and the execution of your brand’s advertising, innovation, sales and delivering the consumer experience.
  2. Be the process leader. Organize, challenge and manage the processes so your team can focus on thinking, planning and executing. Guide the team to get things done on time. on budget and on forecast.
  3. Team leadership. Provide your team with a vision to focus everyone, inspire each team member in a highly personal way, and stay actively engaged to help each team member achieve what they need to do.
  4. Hit every deadline. Never look out of control or sloppy. Marketers have enough to do; missing deadlines means things just stockpile up on each other. In brand management, there are never any extensions; just missed opportunities.
  5. Know the leadership style of each team member. When you are in a team situation, try to recognize the natural styles of each of your team members. Make sure the team is well balanced, to ensure someone is the thinker, someone has intuition, someone can socialize the ideas throughout the organization, and someone is the task master.

As a brand leader, you need to maneuver to the right leadership style for the right moment

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

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

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

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

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

The top ten reasons why brand managers fail in their job

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Most new Brand Managers mistakenly think this role is about managing others, but more importantly, you must transition from do-er to owner. 

The five success factors for Brand Managers include 

1. Take ownership of the brand

2. Able to give strategic direction

3. Know how to work the system

4. Achieve success while dealing with pressure

5. Managing others

Yes, you will get your first chance to manage someone, but many times that effort can be a distraction from your opportunity to continue to learn and grow. 

 

Here are the top 10 reasons why Brand Managers fail  

1. Struggle to make decisions

Some Assistant Brand Managers (ABMs) shine because they are the “super do-er’s,” who made things happen, on time and under budget. All the subject matter experts (forecasting, production, promotions) love them. However, once promoted to the Brand Manager, they freeze. They can do, but they can’t decide. They can execute someone else’s project list with flare, but they can’t come up with their project list. Instead of providing direction, they keep asking for help, over and over.

 

Advice: To overcome this problem, work on your decision-making process with tools that force the choice. If you are scared, map out your thinking, use pros, and cons or a decision tree. When faced with an A or B decision, never talk yourself into doing both A and B. A choice should focus your resources to make sure the plan works. If you do both, it divides your resources, and both options fail. 

 

2. Not analytical enough

 

Many marketers struggle with math, and it eventually catches up with them. They might have great instincts, but they only scratch the surface on the analytics, and can’t explain what is happening on their brand. If you can’t understand the analytics, you risk using your creativity to solve the wrong problem.

 

Advice: Just because you are now a Brand Manager doesn’t mean you stop digging into the data. The analytical skills you learned as an ABM should be used at every level in your career right up to VP. Even when I was running a team of 30 marketers, I used to do my own monthly share report to ensure I was digging in and getting my hands mucky with the data. I could tell which of my Brand Managers had dug in as well and who hadn’t even read their ABM’s monthly report yet. Your lack of analytics scares your boss. Take the time to understand the details of your business. Dig into the data and make decisions based on the depth of analysis you do. If you try to skim your analysis, it will catch up to you. 

 

3. Can’t get along with others

 

The Brand Managers that struggle with sales colleagues or the subject matter experts (SME’s) are at risk of failure. They are the type who speaks first, listens second, and go head-to-head to get their way instead of looking for compromise. Yes, they might be so smart they think faster than everyone, but they forget to bring everyone along with their thinking. They start to leave a trail of those they burned, and when the path gets too big, they get labeled as “tough to deal with.”

 

Advice: Listen more and make sure to hear your experts out. The collection of SME’s will likely teach you more about marketing than your boss will. If you don’t use these people to enhance your skill, you’ll eventually crash and burn. Moreover, if they can’t work with you, they’ll also be the first to destroy your career. You aren’t the first superstar they’ve seen. Also, likely not the last. My recommendation to you is to remember that Leadership is not just about you being out front, but about you turning around and seeing people following you.  

 

4. Not good with ambiguity

 

Some Brand Managers opt for the safety of easy and well-known answers. They struggle with the unknown and get scared of ambiguity. Brand Managers that become too predictable for their team create work in the market that also becomes predictable and fails to drive the brand. These Brand Managers are OK–they don’t have much wrong, but they don’t have much right.

 

Advice: You can put them on safe, comfortable businesses, but you wouldn’t put them on the turn around or new products. Ambiguity is a type of pressure that not all of us are capable of handling, especially when they see uncertainty and time pressure work against each other. Don’t ever settle for “ok” just because of a deadline. Always push for great. You have to learn to handle ambiguity. It would be best if you reveled in ambiguity. Have fun with it. Be patient with ideas. Never be afraid of an idea and never kill it quickly. As a leader, find ways to ask great questions instead of giving quick answers. Watch the signals you send that may suck the creative energy out of your team.

 

When you find a way to stay comfortable in the “ambiguity zone,” the ideas get better, whether it’s the time pressure that forces the thinking to be simpler or whether it’s the performance pressure forces us to push for the best idea. So my recommendation to you is to hold your breath sometimes and see if the work gets better.

 

5. Bad people Manager

 

Most first-time people managers screw up a few of their first five direct reports. It is only natural. One of the most significant flaws for new Managers is to think, “Hey, it will take me longer to explain it to you, so why don’t I just do it myself this one time and you can do it next time.”  They repeat this every month until management realizes that these Brand Managers aren’t teaching their ABM anything. They became the Manager that none of the ABMs want to work for because they never learn anything. But as management keeps watching great ABMs crashing and burning while under these Brand Managers, we start to wonder, “while you might be smart, but can you manage people?”

 

Advice: To be a great Brand Manager, you have to work on being a better people leader. We expect you to develop talent. Be more patient with your ABM. Become a teacher. Be more selfless in your approach to coaching. Take time to give them feedback that helps them, not feedback that helps you. If you don’t become a better people manager, you’ve just hit your peak in your career.

 

6. Poor communicators, with management or partners

 

You fail to warn your boss when there is a potential problem adequately. Moreover, when you leave your manager in the dark, it will upset your boss, the information comes to your manager from someone else. If you don’t keep your partners aware of what’s going on, you will leave them feeling confused.

 

Advice: You have to become a better communicator. Make it a habit that as soon as you know something, you make sure that your boss knows as well–especially with negative news. Share the problem with your boss, discuss what you are going to do, and then make it happen.  

 

7. Never follow your instincts

 

You forget that marketing also has a “Gut Feel” to it, taking all the data, making decisions, and then getting to the execution and believing it by taking a risk. Too many times, people fail because “they went along with it even though they didn’t like it.”

 

Advice: You have to find ways to use your instincts. The problem is that sometimes, your instincts are hidden away. You get confused, you feel the pressure to get things done, and you’ve got everyone telling you to go for it. You get scared because you’re worried about your career, and you want to do the ‘right thing.’ However, your gut is telling you it’s just not right. My rule is simple: if you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand. The worst type of marketer is someone who says, “I never liked the brief” or “I never liked the ad.” At every touchpoint, keep reaching for your intuition and bring them out into the discussion.

 

8. Can’t think strategically or write strategically

 

You are expected to be able to think strategically and be able to communicate strategy through your writing– whether the annual Brand Plan, creative brief to agency, monthly share report, or just an email sent up to senior management.

 

Advice: Be organized in your thinking and map it out. I do believe that every good strategy has five essential elements: 1) set a vision of what you want, 2) Invest resources in a strategic program, 3) Focus on an identified opportunity, 4) Leverage a breakthrough market impact, and 5) Performance result that pays back. If you learn to think, speak, and write using these five elements, you will show up smarter to everyone who works on your brand.

 

9. You don’t run the brand; you let the brand run you.

 

Some Brand Managers end up in the spin zone where they are disorganized, frantic, and not in touch with their business. Some even take pride in how long they work or how many things they are getting done on their to-do list. They miss deadlines, look out of control, and let things stockpile on one another. The brand is killing them.

 

Advice: Stay in control, so you hit the deadlines and stay on budget. Dig in and know your business, so you don’t get caught off-guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge. Use processes that organize and enable you and your team, so that it frees you up your time to push projects through and for doing the needed strategic thinking. Stay conceptual–avoid getting stuck in pennies or decimals–so you can continue to drive the strategy of your brand.  

 

10. Sloppy with budgets and timelines

Having someone on the team who is sloppy with budgets and timelines is like living with a messy roommate or the friend who always shows up late. Not only will you look out of control, but you will also put added stress on everyone around you. And, like that messy roommate, you won’t know people are talking about you until someone finally loses it on you. 

When you miss budgets, you mess up the finance team. The more significant the variance to expectation, the bigger the frustration. The worst thing you want is a reputation for someone who is sloppy. That means you can’t be trusted. When you miss a deadline, you likely mess up someone else’s deadline.

Advice: Get your business in order. You are running a live business. You have to be a good project manager, as it only gets more complicated as you move up and take on more prominent brands or more brands.

Read our story on how to achieve success at the Brand Manager level

Or to keep pushing yourself to the next level, here's what it takes at the Marketing Director level

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

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

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

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

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

Use our Strategic ThinkBox to help your brand win

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Strategic thinkers see questions before they see solutions. Ever hear someone say, “That’s a good question.” It usually means someone has just asked an interruptive question, designed to slow everyone’s thinking, so they reflect and plan before they act. The strategic thinking side of marketing is logical and has to map out a range of decision trees that intersect, by imagining how events will play out in the future. The risk of being only strategic is that, if you think too long, you may spiral around, unable to decide. Moreover, you may miss an opportunity window.

Opposite to a strategic thinker is the instinctual thinker who jumps in quickly to find answers before they even know the right question. Their brains move fast; they use emotional impulse and intuitive gut feel. They want action now and get easily frustrated by delays. They believe it is better to do something than sit and wait around. They see strategic people as stuck running around in circles, as they try to figure out the right question. Instead, these instinctual leaders choose emotion over logic. While a “make it happen” attitude gets things done, if they go too fast, their actions may solve the wrong problem. 

strategy

Brand leaders must be both strategic and intuitive. Learn to change brain speeds. Slow down the thinking when faced with challenging issue and move quickly with your best instincts on execution. 

Use our Strategic ThinkBox and Marketing PlayBox

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

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

The four questions in our Strategic ThinkBox

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

  1. What is the core strength that will help your brand win?
  2. How tightly connected is your consumer to your brand?
  3. What is your current competitive position?
  4. What is the current business situation your brand faces?
  1. Start with your brand’s core strength. Decide which of four choices you will lead with: product, brand story, consumer experience or price. Your core strength will change your entire strategy, including the brand messages and the focus of your investment. In my Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks, I show a unique process for how to choose your brand’s core strength and then show you how to write smart, strategic objective statements around your core strength.
  2. Next, you have to look at your consumer strategy. Start by determining where your brand currently sits on the brand love curve, whether your brand is unknown, indifferent, like it, love it, or at the beloved stage. The goal is to tighten the bond with your consumer and move them from one stage to the next. In my Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks, I will show you how to use brand funnel data, the voice of the consumer, and market dynamics to determine where your brand sits on the brand love curve. I will outline clear game plans for each stage.
  3. Regarding the competitive strategy, you must choose from one of four different types of competitive situations you find your brand operating within. The power players are the dominant leader in the category and take a competitive defensive stance. The challenger brands have gained enough power to battle head-to-head with the market leader. The disruptor brands have found a space so different they can pull consumers away from the significant category players. Craft brands aggressively go against the category with a niche target market and a niche consumer benefit. They are small and stay far away from the market leaders. Each competitive situation leads to different strategy choices.
  4. A brand must look at the situational strategy, which starts with understanding your brand health, looking at both internal and external factors. Choose one of four potential situations: whether you keep the momentum going, face a business turnaround situation, realign everyone behind a strategy, or your brand is a start-up. Each situation leads to distinct strategies and leadership styles to deploy. 

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

Examples of how our Strategic ThinkBox works

Coke

Coke’s core strength has been its brand story, as told over the past hundred years. It links the Coke brand to the virtues of enjoying life, using brand stories around refreshing, happiness, and the real thing. Coke even invented our current visualization of the modern day Santa. The brand has a long-standing and tight connection with consumers. Even with recent sales declines, Coke remains a beloved brand with a loyal following of brand fans. Concerning the cola market, Coke remains the power player brand over Pepsi. 

However, Coke faces a complicated situation because the cola market is facing rapid declines as consumers shift to healthier beverage alternatives. Most recently, bottled water has now passed the cola category in dollar sales. Coke needs to realign and make some tough choices. The brand appears confused, as it has not seen any growth in the past few years. Coke needs a turnaround strategy to determine a sustaining pathway to grow over the next ten years. The brand should face the reality of the category declines and the path to success would involve reducing Pepsi’s market presence, and even eliminating some of the smaller brands in the category.  

The National Football League (NFL)

The NFL is one of the best experience-led brands on the planet. It is a beloved brand with passionate fans who have turned the NFL into a power player that dwarfs the other north sports leagues. The NFL generates significantly higher ticket sales, merchandise sales, and TV viewership than the combined efforts of the next three most significant sports—baseball, basketball, and hockey. 

While the brand remains compelling, many recent high-profile scandals and a dramatic change in viewing habits among youth have triggered a need for a realignment for the NFL. 

The NFL needs to step back and refuel the brand love to ensure the consumer bond remains strong. The NFL also needs to work hard to maintain their status, especially as the brand hits a potential plateau.   

Facebook

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

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

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

Boeing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop convincing yourself that you are not very good at advertising

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

To be great at advertising you need to learn to use your fast thinking, to engage the instinctual side of your brain, to make quick-twitch intuitive decisions to find the smart, creative marketing execution ideas that will help your brand grow. While you must inspire the experts you engage in delivering greatness on your brand’s behalf, I will show you how to use our creative processes to make better marketing execution decisions. 

While we don’t make the product, we don’t sell the product or create the ads, we do touch everything that goes into the marketplace and we make every decision. All of our work is done through other people. Our greatness as a brand leader has to come from the experts we engage, so they will be inspired to reach for their own greatness and apply it to our brand. Brand management has been built on a hub-and-spoke system, with a team of experts surrounding the generalist brand leader.

I always say that it is okay to know exactly what you want, but you should never know until the moment you see it. As the client, I like to think of marketing execution as the perfect gift that you never thought to buy yourself. How we engage our experts can either inspire greatness or crush the spirit of creativity. From my experience, experts would prefer to be pushed than be held back. The last thing experts want is to be asked for their expertise, and then told exactly what to do. There is a fine line between rolling up your sleeves to work alongside the experts and pushing the experts out of the way.

It takes a unique skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide on your brand's advertising, without any expertise at all.

The brand leaders who are the best at advertising do two things well. They keep bad advertising from moving forward, and they can get great advertising into the marketplace.

Your bad attitude can become self-fulfilling. The more you tell yourself you are not good at advertising, the worse you get at advertising. David Ogilvy once said, “clients get the work they deserve.” He was speaking in frustration with an agency lens. Even from a brand management lens, the statement is true. You have to earn great work by showing up comfortable with the process, energized by ideas, and inspiring to get creative people to deliver their greatest work on our brand. 

You don’t need to be able to make an ad to be good at making decisions about what advertising will work the best on your brand. For instance, the manager of The Beatles couldn’t sing or play an instrument, yet he certainly knew what his audience wanted more than John, Paul, George, and Ringo ever knew. After the Beatles, John Lennon had to even be convinced that “Imagine” was even worth releasing as a song. As the brand leader, your role in the process is to be the decision-maker, by knowing what advertising your consumers will respond to, and then giving it to them. 

Too many marketers never find their comfort zone. They are so uncertain they show up skeptical, uptight, too tough, or too easy, and they seem easily annoyed by everything. Their discomfort sucks the energy and creativity right out of the project. Every creative person can sense when the marketer hates everything connected to advertising, and none of the creatives will want to work for them. The best marketers know that how they show up matters the most. Show up right.    

I see many marketers who don’t feel if it is their place to say something. They figure the agency is the expert and will even say, “That’s why we pay them.” They are too fearful of giving direction. Or worse, they give them enough of a chance to mess up so they can blame them later. Think of hiring an ad agency like hiring a designer for your kitchen. Yes, your agency is an expert, but you have to live in the damn kitchen after they are gone. Your agency might make 25, 50, or even 100 ads this year. You will make one. You better make sure your ad is one of their best ads.  

Never let the time pressure rule the project. The agency says if we don’t go for it now, they will miss the air date. So the marketer caves to the pressure and goes with work they hate. You better be great at project management, because the complexities and vagueness of an advertising project will kill the weak project managers. The best marketers I have seen have figured out how to use time pressure to their advantage. A lot of the best ideas I have worked on come right up against the clock. You have to be the one who works the time pressure, not let your agency. 

Once you love an idea and make the decision, you have to own it, sell it, and even fight for it. Marketers who are not sure if it is the right thing to do will show up hesitant and unable to sell their idea into their boss.

Stop convincing yourself that it is your agency’s fault

I have seen so-so agencies do great work for a fantastic client. I have also seen the best agencies fail dramatically for a bad client. I have to conclude that the client matters more than anyone else, as they hold power in either enabling or restricting impactful advertising. There is a reason why there are so many agency reviews: clients can’t fire themselves. When you fire your current agency, and then you don’t show up any better to the new agency, they will be doomed to fail from the start. And the cycle will continue.

One of your primary roles is to keep your agency motivated, challenged, and engaged. Try to be your agency’s favorite client — the one they want to make great work on, rather than have to work on. Stop thinking your agency should work hard for you, just because you are paying them. You might be paying the agency, but you are not really paying the people to sit at the table. 

I hate when I hear the agency wrote a brief you don’t like, or you boxed the agency into a strategy they don’t like. If either of you forces a brief on each other, then you are off to a bad start. Be collaborative with your agency.

There is nothing worse than when the agency’s creative team over sells you, and you feel you get hood-winked. When you are not sure what you want, it is easy to settle for an OK ad in front of you—the best of what you saw. Tell your agency you have to love the work — the best bar you can set for achieving greatness. Then if you don’t love it, you have to reject it. You can never settle for OK. 

It is easy to lose traction through the production and edit. You have many decisions to make regarding talent, lighting, directors, and edits. If the tone changes from the board to edit, so does your ad. This is where experience pays off. The advertising process is likely more complex than anything else you will work on. You have to keep your head in the game at every moment of the process. 

Stop convincing yourself that your brand is too boring

You think cool brands like Nike or Apple would be so much easier to work on. Guess what, Nike and Apple are in such a great position, they don’t need you. Your so-called boring brand has far more room for creativity.  

Too many marketers think their brand is so boring; they use borrowed equity of a song, celebrity, or analogy in their advertising to make their brand seem more appealing. The problem is that the borrowed equity is remembered more than the brand itself, which ends up lost in the cluttered mess. Instead of hiding your brand, your role is to bring your brand to life. 

Be careful of advertising roulette where the advertising spins around and around. When brand leaders have not done the depth of thinking or testing, the briefing becomes a game of chance. I see brands try to figure out their advertising strategy by looking at potential advertising ideas. They figure they don’t have a great strategy, so maybe a good ad can help. I am a believer that you have to do the homework to know your strategy is right, which will make it easier for your agency to nail

The thinking behind great creative execution

Use creativity in every type of marketing execution as you work through the experts on your brand. This type of thinking works on any type of marketing execution, including creative advertising, discovering innovative new product concepts to launch, social media campaigns, packaging and signage, or creating a customer experience.  

As the brand leader, your role is the decision-maker, not the creator. As work comes to you, use your creative instincts to find the best marketing execution that balances being creatively different and strategically smart. 

It is easy to fall for marketing execution work that is smart but not different, but it gets lost in the clutter. It is natural for brand leaders to tense up when the creative work ends up being “too different.” In all parts of the business, brand leaders are trained to look for past proof as a sign something will work. However, when it comes to marketing execution, if the work looks too similar to what other brands have already done, then it will be at risk of boring your customers, so you never stand out enough to capture their attention. You have to push your comfort with creativity and take a chance to ensure your ad breaks through. 

Be careful, because marketing execution work that is different but not smart will entertain customers, but do nothing for your brand. Your marketing execution must be smart enough to trigger the desired customer response to match your brand strategy.

Challenge yourself to be better at creative advertising

  1. If you realized that how you show up as a client is the most significant factor in getting better marketing communications, would you show up differently? If so, then show up right.  
  2. Be one of your agency’s favorite clients. Never treat anyone like they have to work on your business. Inspire everyone to want to work on your brand. 
  3. Stay focused on one target, one strategy, one customer benefit, and one brand idea. Avoid the just in case list or adding one more thing.  
  4. When writing a creative brief or providing feedback, resist controlling the creative outcome. Give your creative person your problems, not your solutions.
  5. Be willing to fight anyone in the way of great work, even with your boss. You will start to see everyone on the team fight for you.  
  6. LOVE your marketing, and never settle for OK. Never approve OK marketing work that feels safe. What signal do you think it sends everyone involved?

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

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

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

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

The eight principles of analytical thinking for brand leaders

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

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

analysis

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

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

The eight principles of analytical thinking

Start with a hypothesis

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

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

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

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

Gather relevant data

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

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

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

Sources of brand data to dig into

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

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

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

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

Build your argument with multiple sources

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

Ten probing questions to assess your brand’s performance:

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

 

Ten financial questions to assess your brand’s worth:

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

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

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

    

Conduct a deep-dive business review at least once a year on your brand. Otherwise, you are negligent of the brand, where you are investing all your resources. Dig in on the five specific sections—marketplace, consumers, channels, competitors, and the brand—to draw out conclusions to help set up your brand’s key issues, which you answer in the brand plan.      

 

  • Marketplace: Start by looking at the overall category performance to gain a macro view of all significant issues. Dig in on the factors impacting category growth, including economic indicators, consumer behavior, technology changes, shopper trends, and political regulations. Also, look at what is happening in related categories, which could impact your category or replicate what you may see next.
  • Consumers: Analyze your consumer target to better understand the consumer’s underlying beliefs, buying habits, growth trends, and critical insights. Use the brand funnel analysis and leaky bucket analysis to uncover how they shop and how they make purchase decisions. Try to understand what they think when they buy or reject your brand at every stage of the consumer’s purchase journey. Uncover consumer perceptions through tracking data, the voice of the consumer, and market research.
  • Channels: Assess the performance of all potential distribution channels and the performance of every major retail customer. Understand their strategies and how well your brand is using their available tools and programs. Your brand must align with your retail customer strategies.
  • Competitors: Dissect your closest competitors by looking at their performance indicators, brand positioning, innovation pipeline, pricing strategies, distribution, and the consumer’s perceptions of these brands. To go even deeper, you can map out a strategic brand plan for significant competitors to predict what they might do next. Use that knowledge within your brand plan.
  • Brand: Analyze your brand through the lens of consumers, customers, competitors, and employees. Use brand funnel data, market research, marketing program tracking results, pricing analysis, distribution gaps, and financial analysis. Focus on managing your brand’s health and wealth.

Comparisons always beat absolutes

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

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

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

Look for data breaks that bring the story to life

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

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

Summarize your analysis

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

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

Turn the analysis into a recommendation

Organize your story into an elevator pitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to build the ideal analytical slide

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

This type of analytical thinking can be found in our playbooks

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

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

 

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

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