Ten questions to help you define the culture behind your brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The best brands of today spend as much effort marketing to themselves as they do to their consumers. While a culture will form naturally, you can use a brand purpose and values to steer everyone who works behind the scenes of your brand. 

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

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

brand culture

Finding your brand purpose

Brand purpose can be a powerful way to connect with both employees and consumers, helping define your brand soul. 

While this Venn diagram looks somewhat crazy at first, trust me, it works as an excellent tool for building your brand’s purpose. This Venn diagram has four significant factors, which match up: 

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

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

Five questions to help find your brand purpose

  1. When it comes to your business, what aspect creates the most passion for you, and how does that passion build a bond with your most cherished consumers?
  2. What is the most unique, ownable, and motivating offering from your business, that puts you in a position where you believe others cannot replicate what you do?
  3. What is your core belief or behavior about your business that leads to creating the best consumer experience possible?
  4. What do you do to make your brand one of your consumers’ favorite brands, and how is it making a difference in their day, year, or life?
  5. We all have choices in life. What was the final reason you chose to build your life through this business, instead of the other options?
Using the stimulus from the answers to these questions, you can begin piecing your purpose statement together. Here’s an example using Gray’s Cookies. 

Discovering your brand values

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 the team members who work behind the scenes of the brand. Inspirations should stimulate your people to go beyond the norms of effort or passion. 

For organizations, I believe it works best when your people have input into creating and building your values 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.

Five questions to help find your brand purpose

  1. What is in your background–whether that is how you grew up, experiences that shaped the priorities in your life–that you bring to your business?
  2. What are your beliefs that come from your life experience that can explain how you choose to do business? 
  3. How does your life experience impact how you treat people, conduct yourself as a leader, and how it affects your perception as a business?
  4. What are the inspirations from your life, whether a life lesson you keep thinking about or saying you repeat to yourself during a tough time, that shine through the way you do business?
  5. Where do you see a behavior exhibited by one of your people when you think it is offside for the way you wish to do business, even if that behavior is generally-accepted in other companies?
Using the stimulus from the answers to these questions, you can begin piecing your brand values together. Here’s an example using Gray’s Cookies. 





At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help clients build brands that consumers will love and make brand leaders smarter.

Here are the core beliefs that drive and separate Beloved Brands from everyone else.

Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

Marketing training Video
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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

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

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

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

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

What a marketer really wants from their ad agency

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The relationship between marketers and ad agencies is a bit odd. Even the best of marriage counsellors might say it’s too dysfunctional to survive. I’ve been brought in a few times when a client said, “we want to fire our agency.” It is too easy to fire an agency. The first thing I see is flaws on both sides. And then I usually tell the client “you have to fire yourself first” and then see if you still think your agency is bad. Do everything to improve yourself to see if you can isolate the issue, because even if you go through with it, the work you do to improve will help you show up better to the next agency.

The best clients respect the process, the agency, and their own judgment. On the flip side, the best ad agency works for us, not our boss. They understand our strategies, give options, adjust to feedback, and teach us how to be better at our job. The obvious need is for great work, but it takes both working together to achieve greatness. 

Ad Agencies

What makes a great ad agency

1. My ad agency understands my goals, issues, and strategies.

I want an agency who write briefs and creative work that expresses my brand strategy. In today’s world, people on both sides–client and agency–are more focused on making cool stuff than creating work that delivers the strategy. Not enough are trained in strategic thinking, brand planning, and creative briefs.

As margins are squeezed on both sides, we are losing the “strategic planner” who is the interruptive voice in the room to make sure the strategy lines up to the consumer. I’d prefer investing in a great strategic planner instead of five client service people show up at every meeting. Even the best brand leaders struggle to translate their brand plan, into a creative brief. We need those strategic planners to help set up better insights and creative strategy.

2. We are here to make great advertising that builds my brand, not work that just win awards

I get that awards are part of the agency world, to reward exceptional work. I wish more award choices would focus more on moving brands forward. The best in marketing, see it as a puzzle, where they start by understanding the consumer, then figure out what connects and moves the consumer, and finally, what will trigger our consumer to move in a way that fits our strategy.

Stop getting so excited about stuff. Get about excited about what stuff does.

Instead of coming into the room with the “we are so excited” line, I want an agency to come into a room and say “we have an ad for you that will creatively accomplish the goal you laid out in your brand plan.” Then show me how you did it.

3. My ad agency gives me creative options, not strategic options

Come on agencies, clients want options. Get over it.

The difference for me is that I want creative options, not strategic ones. Each option has to deliver the strategy, not just various parts of the creative brief. There is nothing worse than agencies who tear apart the brief and deliver options for each part of the brief. As a client, I want a brief with a tightly defined target, one objective, one main message. There can be no tearing apart a big wide creative brief. As clients, options give us comfort. But even more importantly, options treat us with respect that we can still make the right decision.

As an aside, it’s somewhat crazy that ten agency people in a room all agree on which option is the recommended. If the same ten ordered pizza, we’d likely end up with 7 pizzas. I want an agency who is comfortable enough to show their disagreement candidly.

4. My ad agency should not be territorial

As a client, I want free and open access to planners and creative people. The best account people allow the client to communicate directly with the creative team. Most great creative teams I have worked with want direct access to the client, rather than have it be filtered through a series of carefully written contact reports.

5. Be fast and cheap when we need fast and cheap

Sometimes, I want the world’s most celebrated Michelin star chef to create a masterpiece. Other times, we need microwave pizza.

There is a reason why big agencies lost most of their client’s digital or social media: eight people in every meeting, 12-week timelines and need to hire the best photographer, director or writer for everything. We need it by 4pm today! If you were faster, cheaper and responsive, there would be no specialty agencies and no internal creative shops.

6. My ad agency must be willing to teach

When I was a new brand manager, I was lucky enough that my client services person (Leslie Boscheratto) taught me more about advertising than any client should have to learn. In fact, I’m still embarrassed how little I knew, yet thrilled at how much I learned from that team at Bates back in the mid-90s.

The media world is ten times as complex today as it was in the mid-90s. Brand leaders are more confused than ever. Every day, marketers have to hear: “you should be doing…xyz” coming directly from those with a vested interest, who are trying to sell xyz (their specialty) as the only way to go.

  • “You should be doing more mobile.”
  • “You should do more paid search.”
  • “Hey, you should do more social media.”
  • “You should do more digital.”
  • “You should be doing content, not advertising.”
  • “But, you should keep TV.”
  • “You should use more influencers, not advertising.”

I was lucky to have one media agency back in the day, who would provide a holistic media recommendation. Where is that objective voice of reason, who has no dog in the race? Your client needs and wants your help. No one else is helping them.

7. I want my ad agency to work with me, not for my boss

While the boss pays the agency and has the final say, the best ad agencies still know you are the client. Nothing worse than a client service person continually trying to go above your head.

I am a big believer in bottom-up marketing. The person who knows the brand situation the best should be the brand manager. If the VP believes they don’t, then get a new brand manager, instead of stepping in to do their job. The brand manager should tell the VP what to do not the other way around.

Same with the agency. Stop thinking the brand manager is just a speed bump to get to the VP. The best way for an agency to earn the trust of the client is to demonstrate that they work for the brand manager. Once you have that trust, it will earn you a seat at the table of their boss.

Oh, by the way, if the brand manager is viewed as really, really good…who do you think is the first person we ask if the agency is any good: that’s right, the person you’ve viewed as a speed bump. Not smart on your part.

Before you fire your agency, you should show up as a better client

Brand leaders need to take a step back and let the creativity of execution unfold. 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 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 is time to step back and assume your true role as a brand leader. Trust me, it is a unique skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide, without any expertise at all.

I come at this topic from the vantage of a client, having spent 20 years working as a brand leader. I am not an ad agency guy, but I have seen some great ad agencies and some not so good.

Brand training

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

marketing training
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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

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

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

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

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

How to adjust your brand positioning to win in the reboot

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

As brands come out of the shutdown and get ready for the reboot, be careful of the naive calls to change everything about your brand altogether. 

I’m here to tell you to adjust, not drastically change. If you are a well-known brand, consumers should already know your brand positioning. That should not change. 

What you should do is to layer in the added functional and emotional benefits that can create a safer version of your brand. The coronavirus is creating fear for consumers who are now looking for control, safety, and comfort. 

Coronavirus

Consumers don't want a different version of your brand; they want a better version

As consumers move out of the quarantine,  they are looking for alternatives where they can escape crowds into isolation. Consumers want ideas to help them eliminate any personal touch with others. Yet, contradicting all that fear, Lonely isolated consumers crave ideas that will allow them to have fun again. As we move out of quarantine, this sets up the sweet spot for consumers.

Coronavirus Consumer Needs

The reboot starts by adjusting your functional consumer benefits

To help brand leaders, I have taken nine functional need state zones and expanded the list to over 50 potential functional benefits your brand can build around. Our process gets to you to look through the list. Then, gravitate to the functional benefits you think will fit your consumers’ needs in a space where your brand can do it better than competitors. Start with the words on the cheat sheet below, then layer in your creative language based on specific category words or specific consumer words and phrases they use. Revisit the functional benefits your brand can own with our functional benefit cheat sheet.

As you get your brand ready for the reboot, here are the adjustments you should make on your functional benefits. Looking at our Covid-19 specific functional benefit cheat sheet below, you should explore the functional benefits that relate to simplicity, helping family, healthier, and staying connected.

Then adjust your emotional consumer benefits

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

As you get ready for the reboot, here are the adjustments you should make on your emotional benefits. Looking at our Covid-19 specific emotional benefit cheat sheet below, explore how your brand can layer in the emotions such as control, feeling myself, and feeling comfortable.

How this all comes together in your positioning for the reboot

Let me use an inspiration from a European vegan restaurant called Eten Restaurant from Amsterdam. Before the shutdown, the functional benefits that Eten stood for were healthier choices and sensory appeal, while the emotional benefits they delivered were optimism and feeling free. 

 

Their brand positioning would have been: 

“With Eten’s, our exhilarating plant-based cuisine is inspired by the greatest chefs of Europe. You will feel free with a special experience along the most beautiful canals of Amsterdam.”

 

Eten is one of the brands that have come up with a very creative way to isolate people so they can dine in public while staying safe during Covid-19. They created a dining concept they call “Serres Sépparées” (separate greenhouses in English) that allows their guests to enjoy a plant-based meal with a beautiful waterside view of the city. 

The restaurant now reports that are fully booked up through the end of June. I love this idea because the greenhouse idea is a perfect fit for a vegan restaurant. Other restaurants should try their version of these booths. 

Now let's look at how we layer in the reboot

As this restaurant gets ready for their brand reboot, they can layer in the functional benefit of simplifying life, while the emotional benefit is helping consumers feel safe and stay in control. 

 

The reboot brand positioning statement would be: 

With Eten’s, our exhilarating plant-based cuisine is inspired by the greatest chefs of Europe. You can feel safe and in control while in your own private greenhouse pod along Amsterdam’s most beautiful canals.

Do not change your brand positioning. Adjust it.

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

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

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

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

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

Everything that a brand leader must know how to do

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

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

Brand Manager requirements

Everything you must know how to do

How to win with smart strategic thinking

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

How to define a winning brand positioning

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

How to build a brand plan everyone can follow

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

brand plan template

How to inspire creative marketing execution

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

How to use analytics to uncover brand issues

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

Brand training

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

marketing training
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our Beyond the MBA training programs

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

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

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

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

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

Nike takes a stance on racism with their “don’t do it” campaign

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

For once, don’t do it. 

Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. 

Don’t turn your back on racism. 

Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us. 

Don’t make any more excuses. 

Don’t think this doesn’t affect you. 

Don’t sit back and be silent.

Don’t think you can’t be part of the change.

Let’s all be part of the change.

Nike Don't do it

Nike's "Don't do it" ad

Play Video

Their don't do it ad builds on NIke's Colin Kaepernick ad

This don’t do it ad isn’t the first time the Nike has taken a stance on the race relations conversation. On the weekend before the 2018 NFL season, Nike released a powerful ad in support of Colin Kaepernick that prompted both praise and criticism from each side of the political aisles. Nike’s stance has paid off as they appeal to a much younger audience. 

While Nike’s stock price went down a few points over the few days after the ad launched, Nike saw significant sales growth and a resulting stock price up 25% over the next 18 months. 

Play Video

Adidas has shown their support for don't do it

In case you are part of the cancel culture, you should check out this Adidas tweet in unprecedented support of their competitor. Mind you, Under Armour has remained completely silent. 

One problem I am seeing is that people found a way to change the narrative of Colin Kaepernick’s protest. And, the same people are now finding a way to change the narrative of George Floyd’s death. People are outraged and need to speak out. 

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

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

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

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

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

Go beyond Porter’s Model to understand the 8 sources of brand power

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

When I was in business school, I learned about Michael Porter’s model as a way to understand the five forces that outline an industry attractiveness and competitive intensity. Porter’s Model a great starting point to get you to think more strategically and how you can win through power. However, I want to show you how brand leaders can go beyond Porter’s Model and start to see other sources of power, which reinforces our idea that the more loved a brand is by consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be. I see brand love as a stored energy that can be used to drive further power and profitability. 

 

Brand power

How tightly connected is your consumer to your brand?

 

I first came up with the idea of a brand love curve when I ran a marketing department with 15 different consumer brands, which exhibited various degrees of success. Honestly, it was hard for me to keep track of where each brand stood. I did not want to apply a one-size-fits-all strategy to brands with dramatically different needs. I could have used some traditional matrix with market share versus category growth rates or stuck with revenue size versus margin rates. Every day on the job, I noticed brands that had created a stronger bond with their consumer outperformed brands that lacked such a close connection. I started to refer to the high-performance brands as “beloved” because I could see how emotionally engaged consumers were with the brand. 

At the other end of the scale, I referred to the inferior performance brands as “indifferent” because consumers did not care about them. They failed to stand for anything in the consumer’s mind; they were not better, different, or cheaper. I could see how these brands were unable to create any connection with their consumers – and they faced massive declines. 

Beloved brands have it easier

Everything seemed to work better and easier for beloved brands. New product launches were more impactful because the brand’s loyal consumers were automatically curious about what was new. Retailers gave these the beloved brands preferential treatment because they knew their consumers wanted them. With a beloved brand, retailers knew their consumers would switch stores before they switch brands. Everyone in my organization, from the President to the technician in the lab, cared more about these beloved brands. No one seemed to care about the indifferent brands. Internal brainstorm sessions produced inspiring ideas on beloved brands, yet people would not even show up for brainstorms on indifferent brands. 

I found that everyone wants to be part of a beloved brand

Our agencies bragged about the work they did on beloved brands. Even my people were more excited to work on these beloved brands, believing a move to the beloved brand was a big career move while being moved to an indifferent brand was a career death sentence. 

These beloved brands had better performance results and better consumer tracking scores on advertising. They saw a stronger return on marketing investment, with a better response to marketing programs, higher growth rates, and higher margins. The overall profitability fuelled further investment into beloved brands. 

It takes a strategic mind to figure out brand love

What would you rather have; a monopoly or a brand that is loved by consumers? Who has greater margins and profits; the monopoly utility company or Apple, Amazon, Netflix or Nike? 

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.

The tighter the bond a brand creates with its consumers, the more powerful the brand will become with all stakeholders. Think of brand love as stored energy a brand can unleash in the form of power into the marketplace. You can use that power with consumers, competitors, new entries, employees, influencers, media, suppliers, and channel partners.

 

Porter's Model talks about how competitive rivalry can lead to power

Let’s take a spin with Porter’s Model and see how a beloved brand plays out

These beloved brands command power over the very consumers who love them, as consumers feel more and think less. These consumers pay price premiums, line up in the rain, follow the brand as soon as it enters new categories, and relentlessly defend the brand to any attackers. They cannot live without the brand.

As your brand moves to the loved and beloved stages, the power shifts from the buyers to the brand. We see that consumers start to feel more and think less. They become outspoken brand fans who can’t live without the brand. Your brand is becoming a favorite part of their life, built into their normal routines. These brand fans defend you, sell you and crave you at times.

Beloved brands have power over channel customers, who know their consumers would switch stores before they switch brands. Stores cannot stand up to the beloved brand; instead, they give the brand everything in negotiations. The beloved brand ends up with stronger store placement, better trade terms, and better promotions from retail partners. 

The competitors, whether current competitors or new entries, cannot match the emotional bond the beloved brand has created with their brand fans. The beloved brand has a monopoly on emotions, making the consumer decisions less about the actual product and more about how the experience makes consumers feel. Unless a new brand has an overwhelming technological advantage, it will be impossible to break the emotional bond the consumer has established with the beloved brand.
Suppliers serve at the mercy of the beloved brand. The high volumes drive efficiencies of scale that drive down production costs, backing the supplier into a corner before they offer up most of those savings. Plus, the supplier becomes willing to give in, so that they can use the beloved brand as a selling tool for their supplier services to other potential brands.

Going beyond Porter's Model to assess the power of a brand

The beloved brand also has power over the media whether it is paid, earned, social, or search media. With paid media, the beloved brand gets better placement, cheaper rates and they are one of the first calls for possible brand integrations. The beloved brand is considered newsworthy, so they earn more free media via mainstream media, expert reviews, and bloggers. 

Being a famous, beloved brand helps bypass the need for search engine optimization (SEO). The beloved brands become part of the conversation whether it is through social media or at the lunch table at work. Beloved brands can use their homepage website to engage their most loyal users, inform the market of upcoming changes, allow consumers to design their version of the brand, and then sell the product directly to brand lovers.

The beloved brands have power over key influencers, whether they are doctors recommending a drug, restaurant critics giving a positive review, or salespeople at electronics shops pushing the beloved brands. These influencers become fans of the beloved brand and build their own emotions into their recommendations.

Beloved brands even have power over employees, who want to be part of the brand. They are brand fans, who are proud to work on the brand. They embody the culture on day 1 and want to help the brand achieve success.

Brand love means brand profits

In the simplest of economics, a beloved brand will use their consumer desire to create more demand which drives up the volume and the price. 

When we look at accounting, a beloved brand can drive higher margins because they can command a premium price and can use their volume to drive lower costs. The beloved brand wins on volume because of the share of the market and the ability to expand that market size. That drives down the costs–both product related and marketing costs. 

The 8 ways a beloved brand drives higher profits

With all the love and power the beloved brand generates, it becomes easy to translate that stored power into sales growth, profit, and market valuation. Here are the eight ways a brand can drive profits: 

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

Beloved brands can use higher prices and lower costs to drive higher margins

Most beloved brands can use their loyal brand lovers to command a premium price, creating a relatively inelastic price. The weakened channel customers cave in during negotiations to give the brand richer margins. Satisfied and loyal consumers are willing to trade up to the next best model. A well-run beloved brand can use their high volume to drive efficiency, helping to achieve a lower cost of goods structure. 

Not only can beloved brands use their growth to drive economies of scale, but suppliers will cut their cost to be on the roster of the beloved brand. The beloved brand will operate with much more efficient marketing spend, using their power with the media to generate lower rates with plenty of free media. Plus, the higher sales volumes make the beloved brand’s spend ratios much more efficient. The consumer response to the marketing execution is much more efficient, giving the brand a higher return on investment.

Beloved brands use higher shares of a bigger market to drive higher volume

The beloved brands use their momentum to reach a tipping point of support to drive higher market shares. They can get loyal users to use more, as consumers build the beloved brand into life’s routines and daily rituals. 

It is easier for the beloved brands to enter new categories, knowing their loyal consumers will follow. Finally, there are more opportunities for the beloved brand to find more uses to increase the number of ways the beloved brand can fit into the consumer’s life.

A century ago the best stock performers were commodities and monopolies. Today the best stock performers are the beloved brands whether it’s Apple Amazon Netflix or Tesla. I would rather run to beloved brand than a monopoly. 

Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

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Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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

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

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

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

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

How to speed up your brain to engage your instincts in decision-making on execution

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

While you should go slowly on strategy, you should think quickly to engage your instincts in your decision-making 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.

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

How you think and how you make decisions

Use your natural style can inform how we show up as a brand leader, using that natural style to your advantage. Equally, I want you to use this model to learn how to use all four styles. You have to know when to speed up or when to slow down. You have to know when to go with your rational or emotional decision-making side. Use this tool to trigger your thinking on where is your natural style, and where is your gap.  

We each likely have a gap or blindspot with one of these styles. At some point, you will fail in marketing if you get stuck in one style, and if you do not address your gap. 

When I entered marketing, my natural style was the instinctual thinker, who went with quick, emotional gut instincts. I had enough taskmaster abilities to get things done. It took added experience for me to learn to slow down and add the strategic thinking style I needed to be successful at more senior levels. I will admit to a blind spot on the consensus socializer. I was a driver-type leader, with a lower EQ, who was unable to observe or hear the personal objections of others, especially coming from the other functional areas. I thought work that I considered to be great would be viewed the same way by everyone. You should learn to sell your ideas. 

Apply the right style at the right time

To be successful as a brand leader, you must be able to maneuver through all four leadership styles as you move from strategy to execution.

I want to introduce you to my Strategic ThinkBox and Execution PlayBox 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 overthink 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. Move slowly with questions that challenge your brand’s core strength, gauge the bond you have with your consumers, assess your brand’s competitive position, and understand your brand’s business situation. 

Once you have completed your thinking, move to the Execution PlayBox. Use your instinctual thinker style to see your way to an ideal execution, fast-thinking, gut feel, and emotions to find a smart, creative solution. Once you make a decision, shift to a consensus socializer style, to sell your ideas throughout the organization. Listen to the input of others, and use your influence across the organization to gain alignment. After you have consensus, you now have to move to a taskmaster style to get it done, stay organized to hit critical milestones and push the functional experts to deliver their greatness on your behalf.

Following the analogy from sports, you should avoid revisiting your strategy while you are executing, as it will only cause doubt and confusion among the team that can cause unnecessary spin and will slow you down.

Instinctual thinkers move fast and push for greatness

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.

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

As the brand leader, when you see new ideas coming from your team, asking, “Do you love it?” Should be 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. When you love your work, you will fight for it, with your agency, your boss, or anyone in the way. Your experts will see your passion shining through.  

The pressure and speed of brand management jobs can suck the creativity out of any marketer. They run from meeting to meeting, one minute it is 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. The checklist forces you to explore your passion for the idea, the strategy you have been working on for months, and connect with consumers. Use your common sense to make sure the idea breaks through the clutter of the market, fits with the brand, communicates the main message, and sticks in the minds and hearts of consumers. Finally, pride goes beyond passion because the best marketers I have seen want to leave a legacy of outstanding work. 

How to speed up your brain to engage your gut instincts with execution decision-making

  1. Focus on your first impressions. Do you love what the marketing execution work has the potential to do? Will you be proud of this work as your legacy? Do not take notes at a creative meeting. When you focus on details too early that you miss out on visualizing how big the idea could 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, and observe how they talk, respond, and act. Try to react as they might. Choose marketing execution work that speaks directly with the consumer. Leverage consumer insights to connect, deepen the bond with consumers, and build 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 motivate consumers and will be ownable for the brand.
  4. Find the magic within the smart, creative marketing execution. Make sure the work will be different enough to capture attention within the clutter of the market to engage consumers with the brand. Focus on communicating the brand idea in a way that is easy for consumers to understand and motivating enough to move consumers to think, feel, and 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 or cast every possible doubt that can destroy the creativity of an amazing idea. These doubts will get in the way of your instincts.

Use our gut instincts checklist to handle your decision-making at the creative meeting

In your next creative meeting, you should think fast with your instincts while trying to represent your consumers. View the work through the eyes of your customers. I would not even let my agency do a setup of the work. I said, “Just show me the work as my customer sees it.” I felt any setup or explanation clouded my judgment and impacted my instincts. As you are sitting in that decision-making hot seat at a creative meeting, here are challenging questions to ask yourself. 

  • What does your gut instinct say? You might be coming from a 3-hour meeting and it is not easy to change speeds as you head into a creative meeting. Relax, find your creative energy, let it soak in, and use your quick-twitch instincts. Do you love what the marketing communications work has the potential to do? Will you be proud of it as your legacy?
  • Does the work deliver the strategy? Slow down with some thinking time after the meeting. In a quiet place alone, make sure it delivers your strategy. Does it match up to the objective in the creative brief? Does it achieve the desired customer response? Will it have an expected market impact and brand performance? Don’t over-think and talk yourself out of something that works.
  • Will the work build a bond with customers? Will it speak directly to the customer target, leverage insights to connect, deepen our bond with our customers, or build memories and rituals?
  • Does the marketing communications fit with the brand and distinguish it in the market? Will it deliver the brand idea, leverage your creative assets, and fit with the tone of the brand? Does it use the functional or emotional benefits to own a competitive space that is motivating to customers and ownable for the brand? Is it different enough to capture attention within the clutter? Does the creative naturally set up the main message and move customers to think, feel, or act? 
Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

Marketing training Video
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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

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

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

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

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

How to transform your brand for the market reboot during Covid-19

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

For marketers, the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic has not been our finest moments. The first few moves that brands made were all the same. Send out re-assuring emails to everyone, widen your logo and thank the healthcare workers. The problem is that if every brand does the same thing, you will end up lost in a sea of sameness. No creativity. 

We have witnessed panic-selling with people adding everyone on LinkedIn, with a desperate attempt to drive quick revenue, forgetting your prospect is also in panic mode.

We are seeing lots of good initiatives, with a few small ideas to alleviate consumers’ fears. The new normal includes contact-less pizza delivery, curb-side pickup at retail, online yoga, cook-from-home recipes and kits, distancing lines on retail floors and seniors-only shopping hours. As consumers, we have quickly accepted these ideas. 

How risky is your business for social distancing during Covid-19?

In a world of social distancing, people fear crowded places where there is a risk of touching. Grocery stores are limiting how many can go into a store and putting lines on the floor to encourage the six-foot gap. Let’s take this further and explore how brands currently show up concerning crowds and direct contact. 

Isolated / no touch brands will thrive

These isolated activities, where there is no touching, will thrive this summer. Brands involved in running, golf, home gyms, and boating are perfect up for social distancing. Peloton stationary bikes announced they are stopping advertising because they can’t keep up with increased demand. Golf courses, where open, are reporting double the activity versus last year. 

Home delivery and grocery stores will also do well. Grocery stores may need to find ways to make the consumer experience more enjoyable. Masks and lines on the floor are a good start, but it adds tension to the shopping experience. We see in the graph below how grocery store sales are up significantly for March 2020, while restaurant sales are down proportionately.  

Brands that operate in a crowded / no touch quadrant must help isolate consumers

During Covid-19, the brands in this quadrant will have to find creative ways to deal with the crowds to ensure social distancing. From the photos of the crowded beaches in Florida and California, it is obvious we can’t rely on people to self-police themselves in terms of social distancing. Theme parks like Six Flags and Disney better come up with creative solutions to make sure guests feel safe.  

The high touch brands must protect consumers

Many of these brands suffer from the proximity of direct face-to-face contact with customers such as hairdressers, massage, and nails. The use of masks and gloves on both workers and customers will be essential. What other creative ways can these brands convey that it is safe for customers?

  • Service providers are tested daily (assuming testing will get easier) before each shift. 
  • The workplace will be cleaned every hour. 
  • All customers are tested for temperatures, required to wear masks/gloves. 

For hotels, they will have to dial up their cleaning rituals and prove to their customers that they are going way beyond expectations. Airbnb will suffer because it will be hard for consumers to the individual landlord is doing everything possible to keep the rental unit clean. Airbnb has announced this week they have let go of 25% of their staff. 

Busy / high touch

This quadrant will be the hardest hit by Covid-19, especially bars, restaurants, and transportation, who rely on crowds to drive volume efficiency. 

Even as things open up, this segment will need the most creativity to bring back consumers. While governments around the world are giving money to their citizens and companies, they might consider a $100 or $200 gift card that must be used in the restaurant and tourism industry. I will show you a very creative idea below. 

Brands need to reduce personal contact and find new ways to isolate customers

As you can see with the arrows above, during Covid-19, brands need to find new creative ways to reduce direct contact and create isolation for customers to feel safe. I also want to see brands still make the consumer experience enjoyable. 

Restaurant creates greenhouse type pods to help isolate consumers

A Dutch restaurant has come up with a way to isolate people so they can dine in public while staying safe during Covid-19. Eten Restaurant in Amsterdam has created a dining concept they call “Serres Sépparées” (Separate Greenhouses in English) that allows their guests to enjoy a plant-based meal with a beautiful waterside view of the city. The restaurant now reports they are fully booked up through the end of June. I love this idea because the greenhouse idea is a perfect fit for a vegan restaurant. Other restaurants should try their version of these booths. 

Parking lot creates drive-in movie theater to help consumers get a happy moment

As movie theaters have shut down during Covid-19, one multiplex in Schertz, Texas, has converted its parking lot into a temporary drive-in theater. They painted the side of the theater with high-grain white paint that films can be projected on and used AM/FM radios to broadcast the sound inside each vehicle. They provide food options for each car. They’ve created an old-fashioned drive-in. I would love to get to one of these. 

Supermarket on wheels borrows from ice cream trucks that circle neighborhoods

Yes, we can get home grocery delivery, or we can line up outside the grocery store and then go in with masks and gloves trying to avoid people, but it feels like a high-stress, high-speed game of Ms. Pacman, as you try to prevent the humans coming near you. 

A Toronto entrepreneur is launching “Grocery Neighbour,” which is a fleet of trucks that will each operate like a supermarket on wheels. The idea is to create a grocery store that works like the old ice cream trucks that circle the neighborhoods. The idea helps to reduce the crowd you might find in a grocery store, and allow you to shop for the more difficult items such as produce and fresh meats. 

What is your tranformational thinking that will help your customers during Covid-19?

Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

Marketing training Video
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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

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

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

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

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

How to conduct a key issues review on your brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The key issues facing a brand start with what is in the way of achieving the brand vision. 

From my consumer-packaged-goods marketing days, I learned the discipline of asking the right questions, before moving to figure out the solution. Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions. Strategic thinkers first dive deep to make sure they understand what is truly happening. Then they map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planners who can see connections. So it fits that you should do the work to figure out the right questions on the business before figuring out the right answers.  

Start with 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.  

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?

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 the next chapter, I show a unique process for how to choose your brand’s core strength and then show you how to write smart, strategic objective statements around your core strength.

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 a later chapter, 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.

Choose your competitive stance

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.

Assess your situation

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. 

Conduct a situation analysis

Before you plan where to go next, you need to understand, “Where are we?” A deep-dive business review should look take a 360-degree view to dig into the issues related to the marketplace, consumers, competitors, channels, and the brand. Later in the book, I will go deeper into how to conduct a deep-dive business review. 

For the brand plan, provide a summary of the factors driving the brand’s growth, the factors inhibiting the brand’s growth, the untapped opportunities, and the potential threats you see. 

  • The drivers are the factors of strength or inertia, which are currently accelerating your brand’s growth. These are brand assets, successful programs, favorable consumer, technology, and channel trends. Drivers also include new products, successful advertising, and performance in retail channels. 
  • The inhibitors are the factors of weaknesses or friction that slow down your brand’s growth. These are the “Achilles heel” of the brand, which could include unfavorable consumer trends, changes in the way people shop, competitive pressures, and even gaps compared to your competitors. 
  • The opportunities are specific untapped areas in the market that could fuel future brand growth. They include unfulfilled consumer needs, new technologies on the horizon, regulation changes, competitive openings, new distribution channels, or the removal of trade barriers. 
  • The threats are identifiable activities that could impact your brand’s growth in the future. These include significant competitive activity, competitive technology gains, changing consumer dynamics, unfavorable distribution changes, or future potential trade barriers, which would impact your brand’s growth. 

Narrow your focus

While you brainstorm a long list, narrow your focus to the top three points for each of the four areas. As you move from the analysis to the issues, ensure you find a way to continue or enhance the drivers, while you minimize or reverse the inhibitors. You also want to build specific plans to take advantage of the opportunities and reduce or eliminate the most severe threats.

Key issues

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

A great way to find the issues is to brainstorm up to 30 things in the way of your vision. Then, narrow down your list to the top three to five significant themes you see. Take the themes and begin to write the top issues in a rhetorical, strategic question format to prompt a few different strategic options for how to solve each issue. Spend serious thinking time on these questions because the better the strategic question you ask, the better the strategic answer you will get.  

Example of using the four strategic questions to focus your brand’s key issues

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

  

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

The better the question, the better your solution.

Make sure you find the right level of the key issue

Too low: How do we get consumers to use more coupons?

  • In this example, the key issue is too specific and too tactical to set up a strategic solution. 

Too high: How do we become the #1 brand? 

  • This key issue is too general and too broad of a question to lead to a pinpointed, strategic solution. It is more suited to a question on brand vision.

Just right: How do we drive usage among loyal consumers? 

  • With this example, the key issue does an excellent job of addressing an obstacle in the way of the vision, yet it is big enough to leave you sufficient room to explore various strategic solution

You can purchase our brand plan presentation format in a downloadable PowerPoint template

Brand training

Our marketing training programs to help brand leaders reach their full potential

Marketing training Video
Play Video

You can click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our marketing training programs

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

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

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

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

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

The best Michael Jordan ads of all time

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

In the spring of 2020, the biggest sports story is Michael Jordan with “The Last Dance” documentary giving us the most inside look at Michael Jordan’s life we have ever seen. The documentary is well done, almost a soap opera with a new villain each episode, whether it is Jerry Kraus or the Bad Boy Pistons. There is something captivating about Jordan’s intense pursuit of perfection.

Michael Jordan is a marketer’s dream, including his own Air Jordan brand with Nike or with McDonald’s, Coke, Hanes, and Gatorade. Jordan is still one of the highest-earning athletes with a net worth of $2 Billion.  

To satisfy our thirst for more Jordan, here are the six best Michael Jordan ads we have ever seen 

Air Jordan

Jordan vs. Jordan for Gatorade

Released in 2003, as Jordan’s career was winding down, this is a CGI editor’s dream. This Gatorade ad shows 39-year-old Jordan playing his 23-year-old younger self. With such an amazing production, eyes are fooled into thinking “how did they do this” using Harlem Globetrotter’s Kevin Daley serves as a body double.

Michael Jordan vs. Larry Bird for McDonald's

Shot in 1993 for the Super Bowl, I love this simple game of horse between these two legends. For basketball fans, one line that stuck was “nothing but net.” Whether on the basketball court or throwing paper into the wastebasket at the office, any made shot elicited the “nothing but net” line. 

Jordan vs. Mars Blackman (Spike Lee)

Back in the late 1980s, Nike used the odd combination of Michael Jordan and Spike Lee, using the fictional character, Mars Blackman, from Spike’s “She’s gotta have it” movie. I love these ads. 

"Be like Mike" for Gatorade

A bit of a wholesome jingle, gave the Gatorade brand the chance to show a warmer side of Jordan. 

Original Air Jordan ad

Marketers love creating scarcity, so consumers think they are getting something no one else can get. For an odd rule, the NBA banned the original Air Jordan shoes because the color ratio on the shoe did not include enough of the color white. Nike jumped all over this “banned” shoe idea to create this iconic ad. 

Failure

At the height of what you are watching with “The Last Dance” documentary, Nike released an ad that spoke to how many times Michael Jordan has failed, and how that fuels him to succeed. 

I love the copy of this ad. 

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot — and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

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

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

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

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