New John Lewis Christmas ad feels safe, cute and “ok”

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Every year over the last decade, John Lewis has released the Christmas TV ad that defines the bar for what other British brands must exceed. There must be a ton of pressure on the brand team and the agency. Below, I will show every John Lewis ad over the last decade for you to compare the 2019 ad against. Moreover, we can now start to see quite a lot of wobbling from year to year. This year’s spot introduces a cute fire-wielding dragon named Edgar, who keeps burning everything with his flames, until they find a better use for his talents. The simple moral of the story is we all have our strengths. It scores high on the cuteness factor, but low on being different enough to breakthrough, and lower on creating magic for the season, with no tears or goosebumps. It will do well, but not be one of the John Lewis ads that are talked about for years. Overall, a solid 7/10. I wish it was higher.

The 2019 John Lewis Christmas Ad

Scoring the 2019 John Lewis Christmas ad

ATTENTION

  • In year 10 of Christmas ads, any John Lewis Christmas spot will grab some attention. This year’s version will be moderate at best.

BRAND LINK

  • We’ve seen this type of spot from John Lewis with Moz in 2017, the penguin in 2014, and the bear in 2013. Being around unpredictable is fine, but bouncing doesn’t build assets to be used in the future.

COMMUNICATION

  • A very simple fable with a simple message of we all have our strengths is ok, feels a lot lighter than other years for John Lewis.

STICKINESS

  • High on cute, low on stickiness. Nothing overly emotional to make this a memorable John Lewis spot. Five years from now, it likely won’t be on anyone’s top 3 list.

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.

All the previous John Lewis Christmas ads

For a few years, there was hysteria and anticipation for the John Lewis Christmas ad, but that may be dying down if they fail to deliver. During the era amazing John Lewis advertising they were able to link the advertising with sales growth of 5-8%. The connectivity with consumers was helping buck the declines other retailers were facing with e-Commerce.

The ads generate a lot of talk value at the lunch table and in the pubs. Obviously, depending on views, that talk will be fairly mixed. Some will say they nailed it; others will say they’ve seen better John Lewis. My favourite is from 2011, 2010 and 2015. What are your top 3? 

2018: Elton John

It’s a 9 if it was for an Elton John movie coming out. It’s a 6 for Christmas. Yes, it’s enjoyable. Warm. Good story telling. It’s good but not great. Sadly, Elton won’t save Christmas for the John Lewis stores. The idea of “borrowed equity” is where you take something well-known in the marketplace and try to link it to your brand communication. It rarely works. It’s fine to use a song to tell your story, but never let the story get in the way of your brand. In this case, the Elton John equity overwhelms the John Lewis brand, and it overwhelms the power of Christmas. It becomes a great Elton John ad, not a great John Lewis ad. When I see brands use “borrowed equity,” it usually means they find their own brand too dull. Look below at the 2011 John Lewis ad, and tell me if it is boring. Alternatively, did the people at John Lewis get bored with your own brand?

2017: Moz the Monster

This spot was extremely safe. Likely the last few years, John Lewis has bounced around quite a bit, struggling to nail down a spot that delivered on the formula of 2009 to 2012 when they were pure magic. To me, the ad is OK, but not great. It’s cute, but not brilliant. It falls a little flat, compared to previous John Lewis ads. It has a monster, which feels like a cross between Monsters Inc. and the Monty the Penguin they did a few years ago. 

2016: Buster the Boxer

Pretty simple story. Kid likes to bounce on things. Dad builds a trampoline. Animals come out and bounce on it. Dog sees them and is jealous. Dog bounces on the trampoline before the kid gets to it. Kid disappointed? Mom and Dad disappointed? No one seems happy. But a dog on a video gets tons of views.

2015: Man on the Moon

This spot was great on story telling, but it might have gone overboard on sad. But I truly loved it. My second favorite John Lewis ad next to the 2011 spot.

Yes, the man on the moon is a metaphor (sorry, there really isn’t a man on the moon) for reaching out and giving someone a gift. For me, this ad quickly reminds me of when my own kids are on the phone or FaceTime with my mom. There is a certain magic in the innocence and simplicity when the very young talk with older people. They both seem to get it, maybe sometimes more than the in-between ages where the innocence of Christmas is lost within their busy schedules.

2014:

Pretty simple ad, a little similar to the 2017 spot. The imaginary penguin becomes his best friend, and in the end, he gets a penguin toy for Christmas. In 2017, the imaginary monster becomes his best friend and the monster gives him a toy so he won’t be scared at night. Pretty damn safe. Seems to be targeting younger moms and their toddlers.

2013

This ad a bit of a departure, going to animation and utilizing on-line and in-store media. This campaign seems trying too hard to capitalize on their success. Doesn’t feel like a fit for the depth of story-telling of the 2010 or 2011. I get the sense they felt they were too dark on tone in 2012, so they went very light in 2013.

2012: Snowman

The “snowman” ad went a bit too dark for me with missed the tone feeling like a slight miss for John Lewis. I felt they were trying too hard.  Maybe feeling the pressure to keep the campaign alive by being different when really the consumer just wants the fast-becoming-familiar-John-Lewis-magic each year.

2011: Counting Down

This one is my favorite John Lewis Christmas ad. Tells the story in a very emotional way and communicates the art of giving which is what the season should be about. 

2010: Your song

This is also a great one from 2010, with the story telling improving over the 2009 spot and Ellie Goulding’s cover of “Your song” is incredible. With the multiple stories throughout the spot, it has that “Love Actually” quality to the ad.

 

2009:

This ad was the starting point for the great advertising John Lewis would do. Engaging video story-telling with a soft cover of a classic song. These would become the trademark of the great John Lewis ads over the next few years.

Here are some of the best Christmas ads I have seen

John Lewis is certainly a beloved brand and one of the examples in our book

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

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

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

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

Mapping the customer journey to set up your B2B brand to win

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

A typical brand funnel focuses on awareness, purchase, satisfied, and loyalty. In the last few years, the funnel has become a complete loop as we have seen the growth of search and the use of loyal brand fans to generate new awareness with influence to their network. Brands must understand how potential customers move from one stage to the next, as well as understanding why they exit the journey. 

At the early stage of the customer journey, the focus is on driving awareness and consideration, to help the brand stand out and be seen in a crowd. Marketing options include LinkedIn, sponsorships, trade shows, events,  engaging content videos, and blogs. To move customers to the consideration stage, use influencers to teach those seeking to learn more. Use public relations to make the brand part of the industry news, whether through traditional, social, or blogger channels. Engage online user review sites or social media review sites.

For more complex or higher risk purchase decisions, customers will rely on search for almost everything, even if to confirm what makes sense. The strategy at this point is to solve questions or doubts in the minds of the customer. Marketers can use search sites, such as Google, expert review sites, and online content, or long copy print media. The brand website comes into play and should include the right information to close off gaps or doubts, then move customers towards the purchase decision.   

As you move the customer to the buying stage, you must close the deal and trigger purchase, including highly personalized, one-to-one selling, backed by sales materials or credentials presentations to prompt customers at the purchase moment. It becomes crucial to understand the four potential roles of the user, decision-maker, influencer, and buyer; some you may never directly interact with. It may be essential to provide brand talking points to your contact, to help them manage the others within their company. 

After the purchase, make sure all your communications include the core brand messages and re-enforces the purchase decision outlining the expected customer benefits. It will be your customer service and operations team that will deliver a happy customer experience. As your operations team continues to deliver on the expectations, you can turn usage into a higher frequency among your most loyal users. 

 

From your base of loyal customers, it becomes essential to cultivate a collection of brand fans, using VIP programs and experiential events with exclusive access to tighten the bond with brand fans who see your brand as a favorite brand. Once you have a strong base of brand lovers, by intentionally creating exceptional experiences, inspires testimonials, to influence their peers.

Awareness and Consideration stage

Awareness is the starting point of the B2B customer journey. We look at aided awareness to figure if customers know of the brand name. Every brand starts as an unknown. Unaided asks customers to name brands without a list, which speaks to top-of-mind awareness and how familiar customers are with the brand. There is not always direct entry into the customer’s mind. Many times, customers will overhear friends, see the brand through social media, or hear about it through influencers, whether it is early adopters, category experts, or brand fans with prior experience.  

When customers consider purchasing a brand, customers become motivated by something in the brand idea or promise. In more complicated or expensive categories, the risk of a purchase goes up, and customers will put multiple brands into a consideration set of choices they want to find out more information about. Brands need to use their positioning to enter the customer’s mind, offering something new to stand out in the crowded marketplace. Customers need to see the brand as better than their current brand, or they won’t consider it. 

Questions to find out how customers become aware and consider

We need to understand where customers are most opening to seeing and engaging with the brand. Then, it is essential to understand the ideal customer benefits to make customers consider their brand.  

  1. How do you find out about most of the products or services you use to help your company achieve success? Are you actively engaged and look to build a stable of choices, or is it more by chance?
  2. How did you first find out about our brand?  
  3. How many competitors can you name? For each competitor, would you say you know the same level of detail, or more or less? Which competitors have you used in the past? 
  4. What are the factors which will make you consider using our brand? Product, brand idea or purpose, service experience, price? A personal relationship with the company? What do you see as the difference between our brand and our competitors? 

Search and Buy stage

Search is a growing part of the B2B customer journey, giving the customer more control. They take action to learn more about the brand, to fill in gaps or doubts the customers may have. They may use a combination of online, industry-specific publications or personal conversations with trust those they trust. Customers will use a broad Google search, go to specific websites of brands within their consideration set, read well-known industry news, expert reviews, or look through online customer reviews. 

The higher the risk of the purchase, the more in-depth the search, using comparisons and criteria to eliminate brands. You need to understand those risks and understand the online tools customers use, such as side-by-side comparisons, demonstration videos, detailed descriptions of ingredients or process, and a chat function to engage with questions.  

When a purchase is large or complex, B2B customers will involve procurement or purchasing agents, and it may take weeks or months to complete. They may go through a formal request for proposal (RFP) to solicit a formal quote or written proposal. When the process is fair, customers will lay out the criteria for their decision, there will be a formal presentation, and then an official judgment will be made. Many times, pricing is intensely scrutinized and override other criteria. B2B brands need to be careful not to waste resources when the potential is futile, because the decision may already have been made, and the company is following through with their required internal process.

With faster purchases, customers will complete a transaction through a purchase order, brand website, third-party distributors or e-commerce sites. Customers will usually make comparisons between brands to resolve any last-second doubts, comparing price to perceived value, using claims and product details to separate one brand from another, using customer ratings and online reviews, or reaching for advice and details from the salespeople. Marketers need to understand the triggers to help close the sale.

Questions to find out how customers search and buy

Brands need to understand the additional information customers are looking for during the search exploring both online and offline conversations they use.

  1. When you are looking for a product or service to help you, how many hours do you usually spend searching online? What are you looking for that helps make your decision to consider a brand? What doubts or questions do you need to cover off through your search process?
  2. Which search tools do you use? a) 100% search online on your own, for reviews b)Go directly to the website of each potential company c) Balanced your online search with peer conversation d) Reading industry publications
  3. Can you think of examples of some of the best tools you have seen: a) Who has the best overall Website information b) Who makes the best use of video demonstrations c) Which brands are most active on social media (e.g., LinkedIn or Twitter) d) Who writes the most engaging and interesting white papers 
  4. How formal is the decision-making process? Do you use an RFP? Who are the decision-makers, influencers, purchasers, and project administrators in the process? What criteria do you use to evaluate the brands you work with? Can you lay out the top 2-3 criteria you use to assess those brands you engage in? During the search or evaluation stage, is there anything that would make you reject a brand?

Satisfied and Repeat stage

Every category will have unique criteria of customer satisfaction, and the best brands observe, listen, understand, close gaps, and track how well the brand is doing against these criteria. 

The higher the risk of the purchase, the more susceptible brands are to post-purchase customer doubt. If early expectations are not met or exceeded, customers will revisit the brands within their consideration set and question the decision they made. If unresolved, customers may not reconsider your brand at the repeat state. Marketers need to track performance gaps in both product or service and look to fix.  

While every brand has a different purchase cycle, ranging from hourly to five or ten years, repeat is the most significant vote of customer satisfaction. For low involvement or low importance brands, customers can often repeat based on reasonable satisfaction. However, for the higher involvement and higher importance brands,  customers go beyond their satisfaction and look at how those around them feel about their brand choice, helping add to the emotional experience. 

With experience-led brands, customers will require a series of happy experiences and personal relationships with the company before they open up and begin to trust the brand fully. 

Questions to find out how customers are satisfied and repeat

B2B marketers and sales need to figure out ways to over-deliver on the expectations their promise created with customers and track what issues cause customers to fall out of the purchase journey.

  1. When you received your product, was everything you expected in the package? On time? Was there anything missing? What might you change? How were the delivery and service?
  2. Did your overall experience match up to the criteria you set before the purchase?
  3. Do you reach out to the brand after the purchase? Does the brand proactively reach out to you after the purchase? Enough? Not enough? Just right?
  4. How often do you purchase the products and services? How many brands do you keep in your consideration set for repurchasing? Do you have primary and secondary choices? 

Loyal and Fan stage

When B2B customers use your brand for a higher share of their purchase requirements than competitors, they start to exhibit loyalty. As the connection shifts from functional to emotional, they begin to see your brand as a ritual or part of their work life. 

The most loyal become outspoken advocates who influence their network through positive online reviews, social media recommendations to their friends or peers, and personal advice at the lunch table or direct conversations.

Many times, I ask brands if they treat their best customers better than they treat other customers. Sadly, the answer I get far too often is, “No, we treat everyone the same.”

Questions to find out how customers become loyal and turn into potential brand fans

It becomes essential for marketers to know who their best customers are, and treat them better than they do other customers, to make them feel special, to help tighten the bond to turn them, loyal brand lovers. Marketers must know who they are and look for ways to cultivate their enthusiasm. Marketers must look to create shareable moments to trigger new awareness with influence. This influence can be potent when the brand fans denote the expert within their peer network.

  1. Are you the type of person to recommend brands to your peers? When do you become an advocate?  
  2. Have you provided any testimonial or reviews? What is the tipping point for you to write a testimonial? What makes you an outspoken supporter, and how does that show up?  
  3. What does the brand do for you that makes you feel special?

 

 

Watch for our new B2B Brands book coming soon

This type of thinking is in my Beloved Brands book

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

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

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

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

How to make advertising decisions and give feedback at a creative meeting

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

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

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

 

Act like a leader as you head into the creative process

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

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.

How to predict advertising success

Let’s take this creative thinking to a predictive advertising model, changing the creatively different to branded breakthrough, and the smart strategy becomes motivating consumers.  

The branded breakthrough is “how you say it.” It uses creativity to capture the consumer’s attention within the clutter of the market while linking your brand closer to the story. The motivating message is “what you say.” You have to communicate the main message to connect with consumers memorably, so the ad sticks enough to move consumers to see, think, feel, or act differently than before they saw the ad.

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. Here are four questions to ask:

  1. Is it the creative idea that earns the consumer’s attention for the ad?
  2. Is the creative idea helping to drive maximum brand involvement?
  3. Is the creative idea setting up the communication of the main consumer benefit?
  4. Is the creative idea memorable enough to stick in the consumer’s mind and move them to purchase?

 

Our creative advertising checklist

In your next creative advertising meeting, you should think fast with your instincts, while trying to represent your consumer. View the advertising through the eyes of your consumer. Try to see the work how they would see it. I would not even let my agency do a setup to the ads. I said, “Just show me the work as though I see it on TV.” 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 ad has the potential to do? Will you be proud of this ad as your legacy?

Does the ad deliver the strategy? 

Slow down with some thinking time after the meeting. In a quiet place alone, make sure it delivers your strategy. Does the ad match up to the objective in the creative brief? Does it achieve the desired consumer response? Will it have an expected market impact and brand performance? Don’t over-think and talk yourself out of a good ad that works.

Will the ad build a bond with consumers? 

Will it speak directly to the consumer target, leverage consumer insights to connect, deepen our bond with our consumers, or build memories and rituals?

Does the ad 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 consumers and ownable for the brand? Is the ad different enough to capture attention within the clutter? Does the creative naturally set up the main message and move consumers to think, feel, or act? 

 

Making advertising decisions

You have three choices: Approve, reject, or change the work. From my experience, brand leaders rarely approve creative ideas outright. There also seems a reluctance or fear to reject outright. So marketers mistakenly assume their role is to change the ads. I see too many marketers come to the creative meeting with a pen and paper and start to write feverishly all the recommended changes they have for each ad. The problem is if we marketers are not talented enough to come up with the ad in the first place, why do we think we are talented enough to change the ad? You are a generalist, surrounded by experts. Use your experts. 

Next time you go into a creative meeting, use the checklist, and score each point high, medium, or low. Look at the most significant gaps. Then, take those gaps, and create directional feedback, to move the creative team. Stop giving the creative team your solutions, and give them new problems. Think of your feedbacks a game, where you want to move the creative work into a better space, without giving them the exact answer.  If the creative brief is a “box” that creates a problem for the creative team to figure out, then use your feedback to create a new “box” for them to solve. Use your feedback to challenge and create a new problem for your agency to figure out the solution.

The best creative people I know would rather be pushed to do better work, then held back to settle for OK work. 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.

Do you love it?

When I was a VP of marketing, I remember when one of my brand managers brought in an awful print ad for my approval. I looked at this boring ad, wondering where to begin my feedback. It was apparent he saw this ad as a mere task on his to-do list. I sensed he had no passion for the work. I sat there for 3-4 minutes and tried to think of something to challenge him. It was so awful I had no advice on how to make it better. 

 

So I asked one of the best questions I have ever asked, “Do you love it?”  He said, “No, not really.” I gently passed the ad back and said, “Bring me back something you love.” 

The best brands win because of the passionate and lasting love they have established with their most cherished consumers 


While I hope it was an excellent lesson for him, it was an even more significant lesson for me. My passion has always driven my work. I wanted to see a passion inside everyone on my team. 

It was the first time I asked someone, “Do you love it?” but it indeed would not be the last. I began asking that same question to everyone who entered my office. I asked it of myself when I had to make a decision.  

We can never settle for O.K. Each time we reject O.K., the work gets better. It makes our expectations higher. When you have to love your work, you will fight for it, with your agency, your boss or anyone in the way.

Challenge yourself to get better at advertising

  1. If you realized that how you show up as a client is the most significant factor in getting better advertising, 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 consumer benefit and one brand idea. Avoid the just in case list or adding one more thing.  
  4. When writing a brief or providing feedback, resist controlling the creative outcome. Give them 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 advertising, and never settle for OK. Never approve OK advertising that feels safe. What signal do you think it sends everyone involved?

Click this link to see 10 emotional ads:

10 emotional ads that will leave you with goosebumps

 

 

This type of thinking is in my Beloved Brands book

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

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

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

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

This might be Apple’s worst TV ad I have ever seen

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Full disclosure: I’m an Apple brand fan, tying this on my MacBook Pro. This month, Apple has launched the iPhone 11. Let’s be honest: smartphones have reached the “death by incrementalism” stage. Every year, it is becoming harder and harder to convince consumers to invest another $1,000 to upgrade their phone. This year, I read 20-30 articles to try and understand the difference. I’m an iPhone consumer, and I’m due for a new one. Nearly every article focused on having a better camera. And, this year’s iPhone launch event in early September, focused around on the improved camera. 

Here is a typical article:

https://www.cnet.com/news/apple-iphone-11-pro-vs-iphone-xs-camera-and-night-mode-compare/

Let’s breakdown a potential creative brief for the iPhone 11

Why are we advertising? Generate excitement around iPhone 11’s incredible camera, to give the most loyal Apple consumers a reason to trade up. 

Who is the consumer Target? Highly connected, fast-paced people who live in a mobile world ,yet are still frustrated by the annoying complexities of technology.

What is the consumer insight that will enable us to connect? “I would never admit that I live my life through my phone, but the reality is I do. I need my phone to be able to keep up with the things I see my friends doing.”

What is the main benefit? The iPhone 11 helps you feel smarter when it comes to technology, so you can do more in your life with your search, social, music, videos, and photos.
What is the reason to believe? The iPhone 11 camera keeps up with your life whether using the tele lens for unbelievable travel photos you will want to show off, the night mode technology when you are out with friends, or the shutter-down video technology which is a perfect fit for social media. 

Here's the new iPhone 11 ad

What's wrong with this ad

My first reaction usually speaks to my gut feel.

  1. There is no consumer in it. Zero insight.
  2. There is no consumer benefit.
  3. It’s a product demo, and it’s boring. Plus, it’s 60-seconds. 

Let's dissect this iPhone 11 ad as a Marketer

I’ll let the creative directors out there talk about the creativity or lack of creativity. I’m going to assess this ad as a marketer should. As marketers, we never make the ads, but do make the decisions on the ads. I don’t need to be a creative person, but I have to love what creativity can do for my brand. It’s similar to how I live my life. I can’t create the simplest painting of a sailboat, but I can get goosebumps walking through Musée d’Orsay in Paris. I can barely remember jokes, but I sit in the front row of a comedy club, laughing my ass off. As a brand leader, it is a unique skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide, without any expertise at all. 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. Let’s talk about how: 

 

The ABC's

In my book, I go through the principles of the ABC’s model, with examples for each principle. I use the Attention-Branding-Communication-Stickiness model as a great checklist to ensure the ad will be successful. 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. Here are four questions to ask:

Attention: Low

Does this take a creative risk to earn the attention of consumers within the cluttered media world?  Is there something creatively different from what consumers expect, does it entertain, take advantage of the media, and is it shareable for consumers to influence others?

  • None of the above. It’s a boring ad, highly safe, feels like I’ve seen this type of garbage 1000s of times.

Brand Link: Low/Medium

Does this ad connect your brand closer to the climax of the ad’s story? Does this view your brand through the eyes of your consumer, resonate with vulnerable consumer insights, make your brand central to the story, and
then own it?
  • This ad follows the myths of brand link of “The more often you show the brand, the higher brand link scores.” This has the iPhone front and center, but it’s a product demo, with very little creativity or story around the brand. 

Communication: Low

Does the ad focus on the one benefit that moves consumers? Does it creatively amplify, the benefit, tell the story behind your brand purpose, use extreme demonstrations or powerful visuals?
  • This ad uses an extremely simple demonstration, but it’s all about a feature, not a benefit. Whenever you focus on a feature, you leave it up to the consumer to determine the functional or emotional benefit. In a cluttered media world, consumers move on before figuring it out. And creatively, it’s not an extreme demonstration or a powerful visual. It’s quite dull. The main message is around durability and water proof? Anyone else notice that every object is soft, whether it’s soft food or spongy toys. What about showing real life?  

Stickiness

Is there something within the ad that will stick with potential creative assets that are memorable enough to move consumers? Is there something here in the creative that you can surround your consumer with your creative idea, an investment in your assets, does it engage emotionally, and will it build a deeper love with those who already love you?
  • I am fine if this is a one-off tactical ad for the iPhone 11 launch. However, it uses none of the creative assets Apple has used. There is no assets it will add for the future. 

Gut instincts reaction

Do you love what the ad has the potential to do? Does the ad match the brief? Will you be proud of this ad as your legacy?

  • No, this does not even feel like an Apple ad. There are no consumers, the demo is boring and this will do nothing to drive sales. If there is no real functional benefit, then go more emotional. This ad is emotionless. 

Delivers strategy

Does the ad match up to the objective of the brief, from your brand plan? Does it achieve the desired consumer response? Will it have an expected market impact and brand performance?

  • I wrote my own brief above that focuses on the improved camera. The waterproof and durability have been known flaws for the iPhone the past few years. Sure, this ad closes gaps, but only to catch up to competitors. I would equate these features to “Free Parking” for a restaurant. You aren’t going to build your entire communication around free parking, are you?

Builds consumer bond

Does the ad speak directly to the consumer target? Does it leverage consumer insights to connect? Will it deepen our bond with our consumers? Can the ad help build memories and rituals?
  • Zero connection, complete failure. First, there is no consumer in the ad. The choices for things flung at the camera look more focused on 30-something parents, worried that plastic toys or food will destroy their phone. There is no emotion in this ad that will help solidify the bond with consumers. 

Fits with brand

Does the ad deliver the brand idea? Does it leverage your creative assets? Does the ad fit with the tone of the brand? Meets brand book standards.
  • As mentioned a few times, this is a feature, not even a benefit. This does nothing to speak to the Apple brand idea of “we simplify technology so that everyone can be part of the future.” The ad does not fit the tone of Apple, who should deliver tones around optimism and freedom. 

Distinguishes brand

Does it use functional or emotional benefits to own a competitive space that is motivating to consumers and ownable for the brand?
  • There is no mention of benefits, the two features around durability and waterproof might catch up with competitors, but certainly doesn’t separate the brand. I don’t see anything ownable from a strategy or execution view.

Creative Advertising Checklist

Why not show how the new iPhone 11 can fit into the consumer's life?

This type of thinking is in my Beloved Brands book

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

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

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

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

 

I love that McDonald’s chose their agency based on creativity and not price

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

This week, McDonald’s named longtime Nike ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, as its lead creative shop in the United States. I hope this means we might be moving into a new era, as we leave what I think is our worst decade in the 120 years of marketing. 

Three years ago, McDonald’s made the news for their consolidation of all their agencies into one, with an $800 Million price tag that went to Omnicom. The contract was very unique for ad agencies, as they put a significant bonus linked with the overall sales impact. That is a very uncommon agreement for the agency relationship and as a marketer, it is something I don’t like.

I miss great work

I yearn for great work. 

Three years ago feels like a long time ago. Back then, too many marketing minds wanted to rip costs out of the system. Zero based budgeting. Cut agency fees. Bring agencies in-house. Focus all work on transactional advertising that drives immediate sales. As someone who spent 20 years on the brand side, I had some doubts McDonald’s linking the agency’s compensation to sales might focus the advertising too much on the short-term. 

My hope is this can be a turning point and bring back an era of great creative work.

We need it. 

Should McDonald’s not be seen as industry leaders in producing great work that inspires the rest of us. I miss the simply beautiful tagline of “I’m loving it.” There was the Michael vs Larry Bird, with the “nothing but net” Super Bowl ad. I can’t get “Two all beef patties…” out of my head. And, I crave more Ronald McDonald versus The Hamburgler moments. However, I just can’t remember any McDonald’s ad in the last 3 years.

If you invest in your brand, they will come

I see the role of a brand is to create a tight bond with your consumers, that will lead to a power and profit beyond what the product alone could ever achieve. The problem is that when you just become a short-term sales machine, then who is building the brand?

As a brand, the danger of a performance-based fees is that 100% of your advertising will shift to a fixation on short-term transactional ads.

We need agencies to challenge us to build a pent-up desire for our brand, with messaging that adds a touch of magic that will make consumers love us. If you are after profit, I believe the tighter the bond you generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth and profit your brand will realize. Marketing research experts suggest the right balance between brand-building and transactional advertising should be a 60/40 split that favours building your brand first.

Let me use the analogy of the jar we keep at our front door, where we put our loose coins. Brand building is like adding a few coins for when you need it, whereas transactional ads are like taking a few coins from the jar. If all you do is trigger sales transactions, eventually you will have no coins left in the jar. Same for your brand. 

If all you do is keep telling consumers to buy your brand now, eventually they will forget why they should ever buy your brand.

As a client, I once came out of an agency pitch, awarding the business to who I thought was the best agency, but coincidently the agency was also the lowest price bid. By a significant amount. It’s been many years, so I can say this candidly. I told them, “You were the lowest bid. I will give you the business on one condition. Move your fees up to the next lowest bid, and put that investment into getting great people on my business.” I believe agencies should make a fair profit on your brand. 

If you think it is expensive to hire great people, you should see how expensive it is when you hire bad people. 

Building emotion into advertising directly impacts a brand’s persuasion score

While brand leaders are always trying to find a winning claim, there is proof of a correlation between the feel-good emotions you create with both consumer persuasion scores and overall brand appeal scores.

Milward Brown advertising research finds a direct correlation between how involved consumers are in the ads with the degree of the positive emotional feelings your advertising evokes in consumers. The chart shows that as the feelings go from low to medium to high, the scores for both persuasion and brand appeal also go up.

I hope greatness returns to advertising

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 advertising 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.

With advertising, brand leaders do the opposite of what they should do. 

You role should be to control the strategy. Yet you give too much freedom that it confuses everyone. You should give more freedom on the final execution, yet you try to control the creative outcome that it stifles the creativity. I remember one time, after briefing in the agency creative team, my senior account director started to ask me what type of ad I envisioned. I paused, shocked by the request for my prescriptive solution, and said “I have no idea, and I like it that way.” Two weeks later, we saw work that won an Effie. 

We hire agencies to take us on a ride to an unknown place, to make great work we could never have imagined ourselves.

It is time to step back and assume your true role as a brand leader. It is a unique skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide, without any expertise at all. 

Our brand training program will teach your team how to make smarter decisions on creative advertising

Beloved Brands is the playbook for how to build brands that consumers will love

Learn how brand leaders should think, define, plan, execute and analyze

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

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

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

8 ads that use humor to brilliantly communicate their brand message

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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. The use of humor in advertising is a great technique for being creatively different enough to stand out, and communicating your key message so that it resonates with consumers and sticks in their mind beyond the ad.

Humor can help articulate the insight or it can be a great way to demonstrate the experience the brand helps address. Humor can also differ over time, across different geographies or demographics. Some of the best humour is when only the target market gets the jokes. Skittles ads are hilarious for teenagers, but anyone above 35 years old just looks at those spots with total confusion. That leaves the teenager knowing the ad is perfectly curated for them.

 

Amplify the benefit

One way to communicate wtih cosnumers is to creatively amplify your brand’s consumer benefit. Bring the idea to life by exaggerating the worst version of the consumer’s enemy, to help set up your brand as the solution that will move consumers to buy. This technique results in some of my favorite ads.  

Berlitz “What are you sinking about?”

Berlitz used a scenario of a German Coast Guard operator who takes on an SOS distress call of a boat that was “sinking.” His response, “What are you thinking about?” is an incredibly fun way to highlight the importance of language training.

Snickers "Betty White"

Play Video

A great example of amplifying your consumer benefit is the Snickers Super Bowl ad with Betty White playing football with a bunch of college-aged guys. After a bad play by Betty, one of the buddies yells at her that she is “not playing like her normal self.” He then hands Betty a Snickers bar and Betty turns back into the college-aged football player. The ad uses the consumer insight of, “You’re not you when you’re hungry” to set up the consumer benefit of how Snickers satisfies your hunger. This technique is a great combination that would fit many brands.

 

Entertain consumers

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. 

Old Spice "Smell like a man"

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.

It's a Tide ad

Above is a compilation of the Tide ads they ran in the 2018 Super Bowl. Not just the creative, but the use of media. 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.

 

Resonate with meaningful insights

Using consumer insights to tell a compelling human-interest story is a great technique to closely connect with your target market, then closely link your brand to the insight.

Toyota "Swagger-wagon"

The Toyota “Swagger-Wagon” ad brings parent insights into their rap song, poking fun at parents who still think they are cool. This ad will connect with any parent who remembers what it was like to be cool.

Zazoo Condoms

I remember when I worked on Child Cereals, and we used to do focus groups with 5 and 6 year olds taste-testing new Lucky Charms and Trix. I used to refer to it as “birth control for brand managers.” Loading a kid up with sugary cereals for 2 hours ends up with kids that seem like this kid.  

This Zazoo condom ad was done as people were just starting to email ads around and it was an early favourite.  Now we see the power of YouTube for showcasing funny ads. This ad sure gains Attention, but a little weak on branding specific mainly because there is no separation of the brand from others.  My guess is that Zazoo did not see a share bump. 

Make your brand a central part of the story

From my experience, it is not how much branding you use, but preferably how closely connected the reveal of the brand is linked with the climax of your ad.

Got Milk "Alexander Hamilton"

“Got milk?” launched a hilarious and engaging storytelling ad with an elaborate tale of an Alexander Hamilton expert. He finds himself on a radio show, ready to answer an easy trivia question about Alexander Hamilton. However, after taking a big bite of his peanut butter sandwich, as he is about to answer, he realizes he is out of milk. With an elaborate story, the reveal of the brand comes at the climax of the story. The “Got milk?” campaign lasted over 20 years.

Create share-able 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.  

Dollar Shave

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.

Our Beloved Brands training program

This type of thinking is in our Beloved Brands book

Learn how brand leaders should think, define, plan, execute and analyze

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

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

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

Take on these six habits that I see in the best brand leaders

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

This is the 30 year anniversary of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits book. Here’s my version for marketers. Having spent 20 years in the CPG world of marketing, I have seen almost a thousand brand leaders over the years. On my way up the marketing career ladder, I tried to emulate what I saw as the best traits and I tried to avoid what I saw as the biggest weaknesses. At the senior level of marketing, I hired, promoted and even fired marketers. These are the six habits I see at any level, that separates those that are GREAT marketers from those who are just GOOD.

brand management

Habit #1: Great brand leaders push for focused choices

Everyone says they are good decision makers, but very few are. If you present an either-or situation to most brand leaders, they struggle with the decision, so they say “let’s do a little of both”. But in reality, what separates out a great brand leader from the pack, is great brand leaders know that decision-making starts with the choices where you have to pick one, not both. At the core of business, Brands only exist to drive more profit than if we just sold the product itself. It’s all about ROI (Return on Investment). Forget the mathematical equation, ROI just means you get more out of it than you put into it. Every brand is constrained by money, people, speed and ideas. It becomes all about focus, leverage and finding that gateway point where you realize more from what you do, it than what you put into it.

FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS!!!

To be GREAT, you need to focus on a tight consumer target to make sure you can get them to do what you hope and love you for it. A new way to think is to find those consumers that are already highly motivated to buy what you have to sell and get them to love you, rather than targeting everyone and get them to like you. Look at how marketing testing is set up: we test among the mass market and see how many we can persuade to use your product. The reality is that leading brands within each category are more loved than the pack of brands struggling to figure themselves out. It’s better to be loved by a few than tolerated by everyone. I once talked to a bank whose target was 18-65, current customers, new customers and employees. That’s not a target. How can you have a ROI if you’re spreading your limited resources against EVERYONE? The only thing missing from that target is tourists and prisoners. You have to matter to those who care the most.

To be GREAT you need to focus on creating a tightly defined reputation that sets your brand up to own an area. You really only have four choices: better, different, cheaper or not around for very long. Giving the consumer too many messages about your brand will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique. Trying to be everything to everyone is the recipe for being nothing to no one. Today they estimate that consumers receive 7,000 brand messages a day. Wow. How many of those 7,000 do you engage with and digest each day? Maybe 5. And yet, in your creative brief you think 3 or 4 messages is the way to go. You have to focus on one message. When you ask a room full of Brand Leaders, tell me one word that defines the Volvo brand: half the room yells out SAFETY. Volvo has been singularly focused on the safety positioning since the 1950s not just externally but internally the safety positioning guides every decision. That’s focus.

You need to focus on very few strategies. The most simple strategies center around Penetration (getting new users) or frequency (getting current users to use more). Do you want to get more people to eat your brand or those that already do to eat more? That’s a choice you must make, yet I see so many Brand Plans with both. Even worse is when I see creative briefs with both. These are two different unrelated strategies. When you look for new users, you have to convince someone who already knows about your brand and get them to change their minds away from their current brand. When you try to get more usage, you have to convince someone who has already decided how to use your brand, to use it differently, changing their habits or rituals. Brands need to understand where they sit before picking strategies. Go look at your plan and see if you are making choices. Because if you’re not, then you’re not making decisions.

When you focus, four things happen for your brand: better Return on Investment (ROI); better Return on Effort (ROE); stronger reputation; more competitive and an aligned organization that helps create an experience that delivers your reputation. So next time you are faced with a decision, make the choice. Don’t pick both, just in case you are wrong. All you are doing is depleting your resources by spreading them across both choices. And you’ll never see any movement on your brand so you’ll never find out if you were right or wrong. Make the choice.

Habit #2: Great brand leaders represent the consumer to their brand

Everything starts and ends with the consumer in mind. I always like to ask Brand Leaders: “Do you represent your brand to your consumer or do you represent your consumer to the brand?” Yes, I get stunned looks of confusion when I ask that. But it’s an important question as to your mindset of how you do your job. My challenge to you is to start thinking like your consumer and be their representative to your brand. You’ll notice the work gets better, you’ll see clearer paths to growth and you’ll start to create a brand that the consumer loves rather than just likes. When this happens, sales go up and the P&L spits out higher profitability. Because the more loved the brand, the more powerful position it occupies and the more profit it can generate from that source of power.

Are you able to walk in their shoes and speak in their voice? Get in the shoes of those Consumers and you’ll quickly realize that consumers do not care about what you do, until you care about what they want.You should be thinking about your consumer every day, all day. Yes, you need to hit your sales and share goals. But your consumers are your only source of revenue and you have to know them intimately. Live and breathe insights about your consumers.

Habit #3: Great brand leaders are fundamentally sound and use their instincts

I am a huge believer that marketing fundamentals matter–in fact I train Brand Leaders on everything from strategic thinking to writing brand plans and creative briefs. But that’s a starting point to which you grow from. If you don’t use fundamentals in how you do your job, you will and should be fired. So Good Brand Leaders do a good job of bringing fundamentals into how they do their job. They know how to back up the fundamentals by gathering the right facts to support their arguments. 

Great brand leaders take it to the next level and bring those same fundamentals and match them against their instincts. They have a gut feel for decisions they can reach into and bring out at the boardroom table based on the core fundamentals, the experience they bring from past successes and failures as well as this instinctual judgement. It’s not that great marketers have better instincts, it’s that great marketers are able to believe in their instincts and not shut them down because of what the facts might say.

Habit #4: Great brand leaders never go alone, they rely on the inspiration of others to do great work

I was one of those Brand Leaders that spent the first part of my career trying to do everything, and the second half of my career trying to do nothing. I wasn’t slacking off but I finally figured out that the secret was to inspire others. I fully admit that I was much more successful when I learned to do nothing, but do it really well. Instead of giving people answers to follow, give them the problems that requires their expertise in solving.

As Brand Leaders, we don’t really know much about anything. We know a little about this and that. But purposefully, we are generalists. And then if we surround ourselves with experts, we owe it to ourselves to ask for their help. Put another way: when you tell people what to do, there is one simple answer: YES. When you ask people what they would do, you open yourself to hundreds of solutions you might not even have imagined.

The next time you have a problem, instead of giving the best answer to the experts, try to come up with the best question and then listen.

Habit #5: Great brand leaders create other great brand leaders on their team

While you might think that having a great product, the right strategy and a winning TV ad will drive your brand, the long-term success of your brand is dependent is how good your people are. If you have great Brand Leaders, they will be on top of your business, they will make the necessary strategic course corrections, they will create better executions that connect with consumers and drive profitable growth for your brand. One of the best ways to drive long-term business results from your brands is to make sure you have a strong marketing team in place. GREAT Brand Leaders understand the very simple equation: better people means better work and that means better results.

Habit #6: Great brand leaders leave a legacy

I’m always asked so what does it take to be great at marketing, and I’ll always jokingly say “well, they aren’t all good qualities”. The best marketers I have seen have an ego that fuels them. That’s not a bad thing, as long as you can manage it and the ego doesn’t get out of control. I always challenge Brand Leaders to think of the next person who will be in their chair, and what you want to leave them.

When you create a Brand Vision, you should think 10 years from now, advertising campaigns should last at least 5 years and the strategic choices you make should gain share and drive the brand to a new level. Yet, the reality is you will be in the job for 2-4 years. When you write a Brand Plan, you should think of the many audiences like senior leaders, ad agencies and those that work on your brand, but you also should think about the next Brand Leader. What will you do, to leave the brand in a better position than when you took it on? What will be your legacy on your brand?

Our Beloved Brands marketing training program

This type of thinking is in our Beloved Brands book

Learn how brand leaders should think, define, plan, execute and analyze

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

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

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

10 emotional ads that will leave you with goosebumps

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

When brands say they want emotional ads, I usually say “I can’t wait to see this emotional creative brief you wrote.” 

Without digging deep to understand the emotional space you should play in and the consumer insights that lay beneath the surface, your asking for an emotional ad feels like a random game of chance. 

To get emotional ads that work for you, you must understand the emotional space that is motivating to consumers, and ownable for your brand, and then layer in emotion-based consumer insights.

Do you understand the emotional space your brand can win?

Please stop writing briefs that say their brand is trusted, authentic, reliable and yet likable. From my experience, marketers are better at the functional than the emotional. Let’s try to take a rational approach to emotions. As a brand, you want to own one emotional space in the consumer’s heart as much as you own the rational space in the consumer’s mind. I have used Hotspex research methodology to create a ‘cheat sheet’ with 8 major Emotional Consumer Benefits, that includes optimism, freedom, being noticed, being liked, comfort, be myself, be in control and knowledge. To own a space in the consumer’s heart, brands should own and dominate one of these zones, always thinking relative to what zone your competitor may own. Do not choose a list of emotions from all over the map, or you will confuse your consumer. Use the supporting words to add flavor to your emotional brand positioning statement.

Narrow down to potential clusters of emotional benefits, by matching what consumers want and what your brand does best. Take 2-3 of the emotional zones from the cheat sheet above and then add 2-3 support words per zone to create a cluster.

Using this type of model, here’s how the emotional benefit clusters for Apple and Google shake out. 

The Apple brand is about optimism, supported by feeling inspired, motivating and special. It also is about feeling free, with being alive and excited. 

On the other hand, Google is more about knowledge and feeling smarter, informed and wise. Google allows you to stay in control, with reliable information you can trust and respect.

 

Before you ask your agency for emotional advertising, you should know which emotions you consider most motivating to your consumers and most ownable for your brand.

10 highly emotional ads

Google "Paris"

For all the romantics, this is one of the most creaative ads I have ever seen. The ad tells the complete story through google searches, with a few surprises like the airline ticket, wedding bells and of course the baby. While it tells the story, it still manages to deliver on the emotions of  knowledge and control. 

 

Google "Reunion"

I wrote a story about this, and my article promised a Google ad that would make you cry even though it has not one word of English. Try it out. I remember this old P&G advertising guy who always said “you know you have a good spot if you can turn the sound off and still get the ad”. I watched it without understanding one word that was spoken and I was able to follow along. And I cried.

This Google India ad is a beautiful story of two older gentleman who were childhood friends and desperately miss each other. The ad shows how their two grandchildreen organize a reunion, using Google for looking up, finding, tracking or just checking any little details that makes us more knowledgeable and gives us an added sense of control. The Google searches are throughout the ad, but never seem to get in the way of the beautiful story.  Is it weird that two of the most emotional ads are from Google?

Ram "I am a farmer."

Aired during the Super Bowl, it’s one of the best spots I have ever seen. Using Paul Harvey’s storytelling hit a positive vibe with Farmers and Americans in general. The simplicity of the idea, yet storytelling at it’s best. They didn’t over-do the branding, but consumers get so engaged in the ad, they want to know who is it that’s telling this story. While everyone else is being loud, maybe being so quiet stands out. The ad nails the emotions of feel myself, supported by honest, down-to earth values. 

Canadian Tire "bike ad"

This Canadian Tire ad makes me cry every time. We can all remember our first bike and how special it is. Canadian Tire is all about the emotions of comfort and being myself, supported by down-to-earth values, and feeling compassionate. 

Nike’s “If You Let Me Play”

Nike released this inspiration way back in 1995, outlining the benefits of having girls play sports. Brands such as Always “throw like a girl” were inspired by this type of message. The Nike brand continually nails the optimistic and freedom emotional space. 

Bell "Dieppe"

Wow, a utility delivering an ad that gives you goosebumps. I have been to that beach in Dieppe and it does command such intense feelings. As you can tell from the phone at the end, this was in the early days of Cell phones, trying to link the idea of connecting anywhere. While this is just an ad, I do wish that utilities would try harder to connect with consumers at every stage of the consumer’s buying journey. This ad does a great job in delivering feel myself supported by family values, honest, and down-to-earth. 

Budweiser 9/11 tribute

Aired only once, only a few months after 9/11 the context of this ad is paramount to the emotion. An amazing salute, by the brand, to the heroes of 9/11. The ad does a great job delivering optimism and freedom. 

P&G “Thank you mom”

Back in the 2012 London Olympics, P&G was making an attempt at a Master Brand strategy. This is a beautiful Ad, that is a nice salute to moms around the world, whether your child is an Olympian, or not. While the kids might be optimistic, the emotions P&G links to their moms is comfort, nurturing and compassion. 

Always "Run like a girl"

The Always “Run like a girl” campaign is an inspirational video that connects with true insight about the perception of how girls run changes as they hit puberty.  The ad starts by asking older teens and 20-somethings to run like a girl, and they depict a negative stereotypical overly feminine running style. Then, it asks 10-year-old girls to run like a girl, and they run in a highly athletic manner. It asks what changes to make the older girls see running as a negative. The ad challenges viewers to rethink their stereotypes. It inspires girls with an uplifting message to be themselves and encourages them to believe that, “running like a girl” is a good thing. The Always brand closely lines itself to the insights about the changes happening at puberty, just as moms and daughter will be choosing the feminine hygiene brand they will use. This campaign really delivers on optimism about a better future and the freedom from stereotypes. 

Nike "Find your greatness"

Aired during the 2012 Olympics, this ad was a very high risk but also ran counter to all the athlete ads. There are many types of motivation, for some of us, Michael Jordan is the inspiration. But not all of us are Michael Jordan. This kid running is the average person that gets out there and makes it happen. My hope is that it inspires you with optimism, to get out there and “just do it”, on your own terms.

Our Beloved Brands marketing training program

This type of thinking is in our Beloved Brands book

Learn how brand leaders should think, define, plan, execute and analyze

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

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

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

Starbucks taking a page out of Apple’s location playbook creating a tourist draw

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

About five years ago, I was on one of those double-decker bus tour of NYC with my kids. We passed by where John Lennon was shot, and about 5 people stood up and took a photo. Then, we passed by Apple’s 5th Avenue store and the entire bus stood up and took a photo. Over the last decade, Apple has created iconic stores around the world that have become a tourist draw. Now, Starbucks is stealing a page from that playbook.

The world’s largest Starbucks will open on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile on November 15th this year, and will overtake the recently opened Toyko Reserve Roastery as Starbucks’ biggest store and is the sixth Roastery in the world, following locations in Seattle, Shanghai, New York City, Milan, and Tokyo. These locations will make the Starbucks brand fans swoon, get out their phones and post all over social media. This will make those Starbucks fans book a trip to Chicago.  

New Starbucks in Chicago

It will be four floors, 43,000 square feet and employs over 200 people. There will be exclusive drinks “inspired by the culture and traditions of Chicago,” too. These Starbucks stores keep getting bigger, with Tokyo at 32,000 square feet, Shanghai at 30,000 and New York City at a very congested 23,000 square feet.

 

Take a look inside Starbucks Shanghai location

Starbucks roastery in New York City has best described as a Willy Wonka coffee factory

Video of the Shanghai roastery location

Delivering on the Starbucks experience led brand

When the consumer experience is your brand’s lead strength, the strategy and organization should focus on creating a link between your culture and your brand. Your people are your product. Use your brand purpose (“Why you do what you do”) and brand values to inspire and guide the service behaviors of your people. Then build a culture and organization with the right people who can deliver incredible experiences. 

Experience-led brands need to be patient with how fast they build the brand, as the quick mass media approach might not be as fast or efficient as the product-led or idea-led brands. The most effective communication tools for consumer experience-led brands include word of mouth, earned media, social media, online consumer reviews, the voice of key influencers, and consumer testimonials. These brands can make a mistake if they put too much emphasis on price, which can diminish the perceived consumer experience. 

The five elements of strategic thinking allows Starbucks to build an amazing consumer experience

1. Set a vision of what you want

Starbucks wished to become a cherished favorite moment of the day. The question for Starbucks was how to build smartly around the consumer experience to drive significant growth in same-store sales.

2. Invest resources in a strategic program

Starbucks has an strong bond with their consumers, by creating an amazing consumer experience supported by a phenomenal team of employees. Starbucks wanted to bring this culture to the forefront of the consumer experience. These new Starbucks stores will bring this experience to a new level, rewarding the most ardent brand fans around the world. 

3. Focus on an identified opportunity

In 2008, Starbucks refocused to shift the coffee ritual beyond mornings. It wanted to build an all-day gathering place. The company broadened their portfolio around coffee by adding desserts, snacks, and sandwiches. Starbucks saw an opportunity in its under-utilized retail locations, which remained relatively empty after 11 a.m. The company wanted the broader portfolio to boost lunch and dinner sales, and earn a higher share of the consumer’s wallet and higher same-store sales. Watching what Apple has done on locations, Starbucks wants to create a heightened experience that consumers will share with their network of friends. 

4. Leverage a breakthrough market impact

Back in 2008, Starbucks closed every store for a day to refocus on its service, then built a broader portfolio around coffee. The company successfully reconnected with most loyal Starbucks fans. It was able to turn the morning coffee routine into an all-day life ritual, allowing Starbucks to focus on becoming a consumer experience brand, and a gathering place to savor moments with friends and colleagues. With six Starbucks Reserve Roastery locations, each bigger than the other, they are creating a gathering location for the world’s biggest brand fans. Starbucks is clearly focused on growth in Asia, building a new location every 19 hours. This Shanghai location will certainly be a draw for every tourist coming to the city. Put it on your list. 

5. Performance result that pays back

No longer seen as a destination just for morning coffee, but rather an escape at any point in the day, Starbucks saw double-digit growth for five straight years. Meanwhile, the stock price increased 10-fold over that period, even double what it was a year ago. Early results from these locations show that same day sales are equal to what a normal Starbucks does in a week. 

We have a Starbucks case study in our Beloved Brands book

Have a look at our Beloved Brands book

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

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

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

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

The problem with Uber is they refuse to pick a strategy

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

At the core of strategy is making choices. Back in business school, I had a strategy professor who said, “It’s all about choices” about 30 times a class. Whenever you are faced with options, find a way to narrow down your choices and pick the best path for your brand. 

With Uber, they seem willing to refuse to make any choices–preferring to try to be everything to anyone. Uber has failed to choose a core strength to build behind, they have failed to cultivate a relationship with consumers, they have hung onto their disruptor strategy too long, and failed to build an aligned culture that can deliver a superior consumer experience.

We use our ThinkBox and PlayBox to manage your brand strategy

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. Below, I show a unique process for how to choose your brand’s 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. You can use brand funnel data, the voice of the consumer, and market dynamics to determine where your brand sits on the brand love curve. In my book, I 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. 

Uber refuses to narrow choices on strategy

What is Uber's core strength

To be loved, brands must know who they are and then stand with pride, conviction, and confidence. Too many brands try to have a few core strengths cluttering up their brand positioning, so they end up with no real perceived strength that stands out. Our core strength model forces you to select one of four possible options for you to win with: product, brand story, experience, or price. For many marketers, their immediate response is an urge to pick two or three core strengths, believing the myth that having many strengths makes your brand stronger. A focus will make your brand stronger.

Here is the game I have created to help choose your brand’s core strength. 

  • Using the diagram below, start with four chips. You must place one chip where you believe you have the highest competitive advantage to win. 
  • Then put two chips at the medium level that backs up and supports the core strength. 
  • Finally, the game forces one chip to be at the low end, which is almost a throwaway weakness that will not be part of the strategy. 

It is a great game to try with your team, as it sets up a great debate among your team members.

Having created this model, and used it with over 100 brands, I’d say Uber should focus on being the best ride experience, including the simplicity of ordering through the app, ease of payment and billing for the business rider, the high quality drivers who provide an estimated time of arrival, and take pride in their cars.  Uber could easily use the superior customer experience to command a significant price premium. I’d pay extra.

lyWhen the consumer experience is your brand’s lead strength, the strategy and organization should focus on creating a link between your culture and your brand. Your people are your product. Use your brand purpose (“Why you do what you do”) and brand values to inspire and guide the service behaviors of your people. Then build a culture and organization with the right people who can deliver incredible experiences. Experience-led brands need to be patient with how fast they build the brand, as the quick mass media approach might not be as fast or efficient as the product-led or idea-led brands. The most effective communication tools for consumer experience-led brands include word of mouth, earned media, social media, online consumer reviews, the voice of key influencers, and consumer testimonials. These brands can make a mistake if they put too much emphasis on price, which can diminish the perceived consumer experience. 

Instead, Uber focuses on their app product and driver network, and they obsess about being a lower price than taxis. Being lower price is a fair entry strategy to gain the attention of the marketplace. However, hanging onto this lower price has forced Uber to pay their drivers poor, which inhibits the delivery of a high quality experience. It is estimated that Uber drivers make between $1-5 an hour, certainly not a salary that will help Uber attract the best drivers. Instead they now getting desperate drivers who cannot deliver the expected high quality experience at all. 

By not taking the experience positioning space, Uber has given this up to Lyft, who is now trying to deliver a better experience at a price premium. Moreowver, it also opens up business consumers to go back to their favorite limo companies, to get the exceptional experience they desire.

Always remember, when you fail to define your brand, you run the risk that your competitors and consumers will define you. And, you might not like it.  

How tight is the bond with your consumers?

Very early on, Uber generated a lot of love with consumers. It was such a disruptive product, they seemed light years ahead of the taxi market. What did they do with all that brand love? Nothing at all. 

At the like it stage, the strategy is to separate the brand from the pack, creating happy experiences that build a trusted following over time. Only after they trust the brand, they begin to open up. At the love it stage, the focus shifts tightening the bond with the most loyal brand fans. At the beloved stage, the strategic challenge is to create outspoken, loyal fans who are willing to whisper to their friends on the brand’s behalf.

Uber is so bad with the consumer, I would go as far as to call Uber consumer-oblivious. They treat all consumers the same–relatively badly. 

  • While the internet has allowed consumers to rate brands, it seems downright weird for a brand like Uber to be rating consumers. Who is paying who here?
  • When do consumers need an Uber the most, during peak hours, Uber charges surge prices that moves them into a significant price premium to a cab.  
  • There is relatively no real benefit to a consumer in becoming a regular Uber user. If you use Uber four times a day every day, you will be treated the same as a new consumer. 

Uber should be cultivating a tight bond with their most loyal consumers, and use that power to bulid their brand.

Uber should be able to leverage their power with consumers to build a better relationship with every city hall, and airports who will want to do what’s popular with consumers. Instead Uber has gone to war with city hall and airports. 
 
With high net promoter scores, Uber should be able to leverage word-of-mouth or social media recommendations, and positive online brand reviews (Yelp or Trip Advisor) to influence new users. Brands at the love it stage must look for unique ways to reward consumers and further tighten their bond with their most loyal brand lovers. By not treating your consumers special, you begin acting like a commodity, and will be treated that way by consumers. As consumers are not treated special, and as the experience begins to decline, Uber runs the risk of losing these brand fans to other, better options. 

Uber should have shifted from a disruptor to a power player

Power players lead the way as the share leader or perceived influential leader of the category. These brands command power over all the stakeholders, including consumers, competitors, and retail channels.

Regarding positioning, the power player brands own what they are best at and leverage their power in the market to help them own the position where there is a tie with another competitor. Owning both zones helps expand the brand’s presence and power across a bigger market. These brands can also use their exceptional financial situation to invest in innovation to catch up, defend, or stay ahead of competitors. Power player brands must defend their territory by responding to every aggressive competitor’s attacks. They even need to attack themselves by vigilantly watching for internal weaknesses to close any potential leaks before a competitor notices. Power player brands can never become complacent, or they will die.    

Uber came in with a successful disruptor strategy that completely rattled the taxi market. However, they never have transitioned into a power player position, where they can leverage that power with various stakeholders.

Uber has an opportunity to own an easier consumer experience that allows consumers to feel in control of their urban travel. They can own the following benefits:

  • Easier to call for a ride
  • Easier to track/control when your car will be arriving
  • Easier to pay and organize billing to keep you in control
  • A superior in-car experience
These are the main benefits taxi consumers are looking for. While lower price was a fine entry point to separate consumers away from taxi cabs, once they established that, Uber should have gone away from the lower price.

What is the situation the brand faces?

Before moving towards a plan, you must fully understand the situation you face. Each year, conduct a deep-dive business review to assess the health of your branded business. A smart brand strategy is a smart business strategy. You are running a live business, with a need to drive sales, manage costs, and produce profits. Without addressing the competitive and consumer factors you face, all your great strategic thinking will come collapsing down around you.  

Uber keeps acting like a startup when they should realign

From the outside looking in, Uber appears to have a toxic culture. A brand like Uber needs a consistent delivery of the brand promise. Issues arise when the brand promise shows up inconsistently across the advertising, in-store, new products, the overall consumer experience. It creates a confused and cluttered mess in the marketplace. You do not want the team behind the scenes of the brand moving in different directions.

When different functions operate in silos, you see the marketing and sales team each delivering their distinct brand messages, and the product development team invents products in a lab without any direction from brand or input from consumers. Internal silos among functions behind the brand. Conflict over action plans. Confused messages.  

Uber needs to realign the team by employing a cross-functional team to build a new brand positioning, an organizing brand idea, and a brand plan to get everyone on the same page. Build a shared vision, purpose, values, strategies, and execution. Uber has had significant issues at the leadership level, many of the executives have exhibited such ego-driven statements they appear oblivious to developing a culture that can deliver the desired consumer experience. The leadership style Uber needs to engage is a participative leadership style that will bring everyone together to listen to all points of view and unify them under a shared plan. Uber needs a leadership that can express cohesion and consistency across all consumer touchpoints. 

Uber has failed to choose a core strength to build behind, they have failed to cultivate a relationship with consumers, they have hung onto their disruptor strategy too long, and failed to build an aligned culture that can deliver a superior consumer experience.

This type of thinking is in my book, Beloved Brands

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

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

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

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