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

How to find and focus on your ideal consumer target

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

One of the biggest mistakes I see marketers make is picking too broad of a consumer target market. A tight consumer target market decides who is in the target and who is not in the target.

There is a myth that a bigger target will make the brand bigger, so the scared marketer targets “everyone.” There seems to be an irrational fear of leaving someone out. Spreading your brand’s limited resources across an entire population is completely cost-prohibitive. While targeting everyone “just in case” might feel safe at first, it is riskier because you spread your resources so broadly you never see the full impact you want to see. This fear of missing out (FOMO) gives your brand a lower return on investment and eventually will drain your brand’s limited resources. Please focus.

Every time I go to the airport, I see the shoeshine person looking down at people’s feet, qualifying potential customers based on whether they are wearing leather shoes. It reminds me of how simple it is to target those consumers who are the most motivated by what you do. Sure, they could be missing out on the very few people who have leather shoes in their suitcase. However, using a focused approach to profile consumers is a smart way to maximize your return on effort. If shoeshiners can narrow the focus of their target to people wearing leather shoes, why is it so difficult for you to narrow down your target to those who care the most about what your brand does?

Instead of going after who you want, go after those who want you

If you have a golf ball that goes longer than any other golf ball, go after those golfers who already hit it long and want to hit it even longer. If you have a new recipe for chicken noodle soup, go after those who love chicken noodle soup. And if you are selling a mortgage, go after those consumers who want to buy a house. Damn, that sounds simple. Then why do I see golf marketers go after people who hate golf, soup marketers go after those who don’t give a damn about soup and banks trying to sell mortgages to everyone.

To illustrate this point of focus, I look at three types of potential target markets:

  • Selling target: This is pretty much everyone, as you sell to anyone who comes in the door and wants to buy, regardless if they fit your ideal target. However, “everyone” should never be a marketing target. You are spreading your resources so thin your message will miss out on really capturing those consumers most likely to respond, which provides an efficient payback. 
  • Marketing target: You should focus your limited resources on those consumers who have the highest likelihood of responding positively to your brand positioning, advertising, and new product innovation. A tighter target market provides the fastest and highest return on investment. 
 
  • Program target: When working on a specific campaign, narrow the target even further. Focus on people you want to stimulate to see if you can get them to see, think, feel or do things that will benefit your brand. A specific program target is smart when launching a new product, or aligning with a promotional time of year (including back-to-school or Christmas).

The case of the crazy bank that targeted everyone

I worked with a bank that told me its target market for a first-time mortgage (home loan) was adults aged 18-65, new customers, current customers, and employees. Sarcastically, I said, “You have forgotten about tourists and prisoners.” As I pressed to help them narrow their consumer target, they pushed back saying they did not want to alienate anyone just in case. I cringed at the word “alienate” and the idea of “just in case.”

Sure, the odd 64-year-old might be tired of renting for the past 40 years, but they would not be offended having a 32-year-old in the ad. You have to realize that people know when they are a natural outlier, and they aren’t offended when they are. The age target that would be most motivated by a first-time mortgage ad would be someone who is in their late twenties or early thirties.

I improved the target definition, even more, by adding, “They are looking to buy a house.”  This thinking is equal to the shoeshine person looking for someone wearing leather shoes. No one buys their first house on impulse, and no one ever wanted a mortgage without buying a house. Consumers usually spend 6-12 months looking for a house. It sounds obvious, but why was it lost on the bank? 

Think about the difference the focused target makes on the marketing programs. Instead of randomly advertising to everyone on mass media, your brand should focus your limited resources on the consumer who is most open to your message and where they are most willing to listen. Advertise on real estate websites during their lunch hour when they take a break to search the web for new housing options. Use billboards outside new housing developments and use radio ads on Saturday afternoons to capture them while they drive around looking at new homes. 

Who is most likely to try your brand or love your brand in the future?

There are various ways to divide up the market to identify the most motivated possible audience. Here are three main ways to segment the market:

  1. Consumer profiling: Using demographics is one of the easiest ways to segment. While some resist demographics, you will eventually have to put someone in the ad and likely buy media using age. Then add in socioeconomic and geographic elements, and how they shop. Choose to focus on either current customers or new customers, but never both at the same time. Trying to drive penetration and usage at the same time will drain your resources. These are two dramatically different targets needing two different messages, two types of media, and potentially two different types of product offerings.
  2. Consumer behavior: Divide the market based on consumer need states, purchase occasions, life stages, or life moments. You can also divide the market based on purchase behavior, perceptions, or beliefs.
  3. Consumer psychographics: Psychographics look at commonly shared behaviors, such as the consumer’s shared lifestyle, personality, values or attitudes.   

Segmentation forces you to focus. Please do not spend tons of money on a segmentation study and then try to figure out how to go after each segment with a completely different brand message. I have seen marketers do this, and it is borderline crazy. That is not the right way to use these studies. A brand can only ever have one reputation. While this shows 12 different ways you can segment, a good starting point is to use a combination of 3 or 4 segmentation elements to narrow down your target. The choice depends on the category.

Do you know your consumer better than your competition knows your consumer?

Brands should think of consumer insights like you do intellectual property. Your knowledge of your consumer is a competitive advantage. The deeper the love a brand can build with your most cherished consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be, going far beyond what the product alone could ever deliver. There is only one source of revenue; not the products you sell, but the consumers who buy them. 

Consumer insights must show up at every consumer touchpoint

Knowing the secrets of your consumers can be a potent asset for your brand. The best brand communication should be like whispering an inside-joke that only you and your friend get. When the consumer insight connects, it makes consumers stop and say, “Hmmm. That’s exactly how I feel. I thought I was the only one who felt like that.” When portrayed with the brand’s message, whether through packaging, advertising or at the purchase moment, the consumer will think the brand is made just for them. 

Building out a consumer target profile

I use seven fundamental questions to define and build a profile of your ideal consumer target:

  1. What is the description of the consumer target?
  2. What are the consumer’s main needs?
  3. Who is the consumer’s enemy who torments them every day?
  4. What are the insights we know about the consumer?
  5. What does the consumer think now?
  6. How does the consumer buy?
  7. What do we want consumers to see, think, do, feel or whisper to their friends?

Most marketers think of the type of consumers they want to attract. Why not change your thinking and go after those consumers who are already motivated by what your brand offers? So instead of asking, “Who do we want?” you should be saying, “Who wants us?”

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

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

How to use strategic thinking to help your brand win

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Strategic thinkers see questions before they see solutions.  

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

Strategic thinking is the foundation of brand management. I will take you through the five elements of smart strategic thinking, including setting a vision, investing in a strategic program that focuses on an identified opportunity, and how to leverage a breakthrough market impact into a performance result.

The five elements of smart strategic thinking

Everyone says they are a strategic thinker, yet few are. Early in my career, I confess that I was more of an instinctual marketer. To learn strategic thinking, we need to slow down and organize our thoughts. Here are the five elements that make up smart strategic thinking:

1. Set a vision of what you want for your brand

A vision sets aspirational stretch goals for the future, linked to a clear result or purpose. Write a vision statement in a way that scares you a little and excites you a lot. It should steer everyone who works on the brand to focus on finding ways to create a bond with your consumers that will lead to power and profit beyond what the product alone could achieve. As Yogi Berra famously said, “If you do not know where you are going, how will you know if you get there?” 

To be a visionary, you must be able to visualize the future. Imagine it is five or 10 years from now and you wake up in the most fantastic mood. Visualize a perfect future and write down the most critical milestones you need to achieve. Even think about words that will inspire, lead, and steer your team towards your vision. 

As strategic thinking starts with asking questions, a smart strategy must ask interruptive questions that frame the issues regarding what you want to achieve. By raising those issues early on, you can focus the team on the significant problems that need to be solved to get you on the path to your vision. 

2. Invest resources in a strategic program

Think through the options of where you should invest in moving your brand into a more powerful and profitable position. The programs you choose should solidify the brand’s core strength, build a brand idea that tightens the consumer bond, battle competitors on positioning, or address the situational challenges and opportunities.

3. Focus on an identified opportunity

Focus your limited resources on a distinct opportunity you have identified based on a potential change in the market, including changes to consumers, competitive situation, technology, or sales channels. 

In today’s data-driven world, everyone has access to the equivalent information and in turn, can see the same opportunities. Use speed to seize the opportunity before others can take action, and then that opportunity is gone. The best brand leaders never divide and conquer. They force themselves to focus and win. The smartest brand leaders use the word “or” more often than they use the word “and.”  If you come to a decision point, and you try to rationalize doing a little of both, you are not strategic. Force yourself to make choices.

Every brand has limited resources, whether they are financial, time, people, or partnerships. Marketers always face the temptation of an unlimited array of choices, whether in the possible target market, brand messages, strategies, or tactics. The smartest brand leaders limit their choices to match up to their limited resources, to focus on those that will deliver the highest return. 

Many marketers struggle to focus 

Myth 1: The most prominent myth of marketing is to believe that your brand will get bigger if you have a broader target market. 


Reality: Too many marketers target anyone. I will always argue that it is better to be loved by a few than tolerated by many. You have to create a tight bond with a core base of brand fans, and then use that fan support to expand your following. 

Myth 2: The second myth to becoming a more prominent brand is to believe a brand stands for everything. Some brands try to say everything possible with the hope the consumer hears anything. 

Reality: Hope is never a strategy. To be loved by consumers, a brand must stand for something with a backbone and conviction. Trying to be everything to anyone ends up becoming nothing to everyone.

Myth 3: Your brand will achieve higher sales if you try to be everywhere, whether in every sales channel or on every possible media option.

Reality: If you went to Las Vegas and put a chip on every square, you would be bankrupt before midnight. The worst marketers lack focus because they fear missing out on someone or something. By trying to be everywhere, the brand will drain itself and eventually end up being nowhere.

When you focus, five amazing things happen to your brand:

  1. Stronger return on investment (ROI): When you focus your dollars on the distinct breakthrough point or against a program that you know will work, you will see the most positive and efficient response in the marketplace. 
  2. Better return on effort (ROE): You must make the most efficient use of your limited people resources. Find the Big Easy! Focus on the ideas with the most significant impact that is the easiest to execute. Avoid those ideas that are small and difficult to implement. While you may not always have the data to calculate your ROI, you should have the instincts to figure out your return on effort (ROE). 
  3. Stronger reputation: When you limit your audience and brand message, you will have a better chance to own that reputation among that core target audience. 
  4. More competitive: When you focus your message to a specific target audience, your brand will start to create a space in the market, and you can defend against others from entering that space.
  5. More investment behind the brand: When you focus and deliver business results, your management team will ask you to do that again. They will give you more money and more people resources. Even with increased resources, you must take the same focused approach. 

4. Leverage the breakthrough market impact

A smart strategy turns an early breakthrough win into a shift in momentum, positional power, or tipping point where you begin to achieve more in the marketplace than the resources you put in.

Many underestimate the need for an early win. I see this as a crucial breakthrough point where you start to look at a small shift in momentum towards your vision. While there will always be doubters to every strategy, the results of the early win provide compelling proof to show everyone the plan will work. You can change the minds of the doubters—or at least keep them quiet—so everyone can stay focused on the breakthrough point. 

The magic of strategy happens through leverage, where you can use the early win as an opening or a tipping point where you start to see a transformational power that allows you to make an impact and achieve results in the marketplace. A smart strategy should trigger the consumer to move along the buying journey from awareness to buy and onto loyalty, or it can help tighten the consumer’s bond with the brand.  

5. Performance result that pays back

The shift in positional power in the marketplace moves your brand toward your vision and creates a future pathway to building a consumer bond, brand power, and brand profitability. 

A brand can become powerful compared to the consumers they serve, the competitors they battle, the channels they sell through, the suppliers who make the products or ingredients, the influencers in the market, any media choices and the employees who work for the brand. We explored these eight sources of power in the opening chapter. 

You can drive profit through premium pricing, trading consumers up on price, finding a lower cost of goods, using lower sales and marketing costs, stealing competitive users, getting loyal users to use more, entering new markets or finding new uses for the brand. We explored these eight ways a brand can add to their profitability in the opening chapter. For a strategy to work, what pays off in the marketplace must pay off in brand power or business results.

Using Gray's Cookies to demonstrate strategic thinking

We will use the fictional Gray’s Cookies as a case study. Gray’s Cookies are the ultimate healthy cookie, which is excellent tasting, low fat, low calorie and made from the best ingredients. I did mention it was fictional. This cookie is battling the major mainstream competitors, starting from a small niche with a core target market of fans who are beginning to love the brand. 

How to turn thinking into strategic objective statements

Let’s now look at how to turn your smart strategic thinking into writing a strategic objective statement that can provide specific marching orders to everyone who works on the brand. 

 

The process covers all five elements of smart strategic thinking. You can see the brand vision, and key issue statement covers the first strategic element. However, you need the strategic objective statement to cover off the remaining four other strategic elements, including the program investment, focused opportunity, market impact, and the performance result.

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

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

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

The 10 worst types of advertising clients

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

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

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

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

#3: Jekyll & Hyde

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

#4: The constant bad mood

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

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

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

#6: The dictator

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

#7: Driven by mandatories  

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

#8: The kitchen sink

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

#9: Keeps changing their mind

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

#10: The scientist:

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

 

Other stories you might like

 

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

This type of thinking is in my book, Beloved Brands

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

We can already define Disney+

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

Disney

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

Pixar

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

Marvel

  • X Men
  • Deadpool
  • Spider-man

20th Century Fox

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

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

 

I can no longer define Netflix

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

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

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

Amazon and Apple could end as carriers more than producers

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ten step process in getting better advertising for your brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

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

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

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

Be a better client

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

The ten steps of the creative advertising process

1. Strategy pre-work: 

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

2. Focused creative brief: 

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


3. Creative expectations: 

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

4. Tissue session: 

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

5. Creative meeting: 

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

6. Feedback memo: 

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

7. Advertising testing: 

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

8. Gain approval: 

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

9. Production: 

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

10. Post-production: 

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

 

This type of thinking is in my book, Beloved Brands

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

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

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

Borrowing the model for branding

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

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

The how-to model helps find your brand purpose

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example of brand purpose for Gray’s Cookies

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

Treat your brand purpose right

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

• Purpose is NOT a strategy.

• Purpose is NOT an advertising line.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Using your brand idea to build a brand credo document

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

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

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

This type of thinking is in my book, Beloved Brands

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

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

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

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

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

Is the CMO title dead?

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

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

 

Two weird little HR-things about titles

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

Marketing is certainly not dead

Let’s know our history. 

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

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

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

There will always be the Marketing Boss!!!

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

 

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

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

1. Your people come first

  • The best VP/CMO understands that the smarter your people, the better the work they produce and in turn the stronger your results will be. 
  • Have a regular review of the talent with your directors, with systemic way to get feedback to everyone on the team on a quarterly basis. 
  • Invest in training and development. Marketing training is not just on the job, but in the classroom to challenge their thinking and give them the necessary skills to be better in their jobs.  
  • Marketing fundamentals matter. The classic fundamentals are falling, whether it is strategic thinking, writing a brand plan, writing a creative brief or judging great advertising. People are NOT getting the same development they did in prior generations. Investing in training, not only makes them better, but it is also motivating for them to know that you are investing in them. 

2. Bring a vision to the role

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

3. Put the spotlight on your team

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

4. Be an approachable leader

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

5. Run the process and the numbers

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

The brand leader must deliver

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

The head of marketing can be a lonely role

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

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

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

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

What will you get from the Beloved Brands playbook?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

 

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

 

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

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

1. Set a vision of what you want

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

2. Invest resources in a strategic program

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

3. Focus on an identified opportunity

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

4. Leverage a breakthrough market impact

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

5. Performance result that pays back

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

Examples how Taylor has surprised her fans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Taylor Swift brand plan

Vision: 

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

Goals:

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

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

Strategies

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

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

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

What will you get from the Beloved Brands playbook?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

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

 

What is Sidewalk Labs?

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

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

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

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

https://www.sidewalklabs.com/#

Privacy appears to be a big deal for Apple

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

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

 

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

The playbook for how Apple became a $1 trillion brand

 

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

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

Learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand.