8 simple ways to be a better brand leader

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

As we push to be great Brand Leaders, here are 8 ways to push yourself to be better. This is from the 20 years of hiring, training, encouraging and even firing Brand Leaders. Here are 8 things that separate amazing from OK.

A great Brand Leader takes ownership of the brand. I’ve seen many Brand Leaders struggle with the transition from being a helper to being the owner.  As you move into the job, you have to get away from the idea of having someone hand you a project list.  Not only do you have to make the project list, but you also have to come up with the strategies from which the projects fall out of.  A good owner talks in ideas in a telling sense, rather than an asking sense.  It’s great to be asking questions as feelers, but realize that most are going to be looking to you for the answers.  They’ll be recommending you’ll be deciding.  When managing upwards be careful of asking questions—try to stick to solutions.  “I think we should build a big bridge” instead of “any ideas for how we can get over the water”.  You just gave up your ownership.  I’d rather have you tell me what you want to do, and we debate from there, rather then you ask me what we should do.  I’ll be better able to judge your logic, your passion, and your vision. 

A great Brand Leader provides vision & strategies to drive results. Vision is sometimes a hard thing to articulate. It’s sometimes easy to see times when there is a lack of vision.  You have to let everyone know where you want to go.  The strategy that matches becomes the road map for how to get there.  As the brand owner, you become the steward of the vision and strategy.  Everything that is off strategy has to be rejected and your role is to find ways to steer them back on track.  It’s easy to get side-tracked by exciting programs or cool ideas, but if they are off-strategy then they have to be rejected.  The communication of strategy is a key skill.  Learn to talk in strategic stories that can frame your direction.  Learn to think in terms of pillars—which forces your hand around 3 different areas to help achieve your strategy.  Having pillars constantly grounds you back in your strategy, and is an easy way for communicating with the various functions—they may only have 1 strategic pillar that matters to them personally, but seeing the other parts makes them feel as though their work is worth it.

A great Brand Leader gets what they need. The organization is filled with groups, layers, external agencies, with everyone carrying a different set of goals and motivations. Working the system entails taking what you have learned about ownership one step further.  You understand the organizational components, and then you go get what you need.  Again communication becomes key—you can’t let missed communications cause angst or concerns. Also, it is crucial that you get the best from everyone.  I have found it useful upfront to ask people for their best. It’s a strange step, but I have found it useful. If you really have someone that’s good, you know they’ll respond to this. The good news is that only 0.1% of people ask them, so it’s not like they’ve heard it that many times. 

A great Brand Leader can handle the pressure. There are Four Types of Pressure that Brand Leaders Face

  1. Ambiguity is one of the hardest.  This is where patience and composure come into play as you sort through the issues.  The consequences of not remaining composed is likely a bad decision. 
  2. If the results don’t come in, it can be frustrating. Reach for your logic as you re-group.  Force yourself to course correct, rather than continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat.  
  3. Relationships.  Be pro-active in making the first move. Try to figure out what motivates as well as what annoys them.   Most times, the common ground is not that far away. 
  4. Time Pressure.  It’s similar to the ambiguity. Be organized, disciplined and work the system so it doesn’t get in your way.   Be calm, so you continue to make the right decisions. 

A great Brand Leader can Hold your team to a consistently high standard of work: Rather than being the leader by example, I’d rather see you establish a standard and hold everyone and yourself to that standard. For a new Brand Leader, this is one of the harder areas—how to balance the freedom you give with the standard you demand. You need to organize the team and build in processes in a way that produces consistent output, your team hits all deadlines, stays focused and keeps things moving.  But it can also show up in the quality of brand plans, execution, and interactions with everyone specifically sales. Be the control point of the team, and not let slips, errors or delays show beyond the team. Delegate so you motivate your stars, but never abdicate ownership of how your team shows up.

A great Brand Leader is an outstanding leader of people by leveraging Consistent People Leadership and Management. Newly appointed Brand Leaders have taken on more leadership roles.  You have to let your team breathe and grow. There are likely future superstars within the ranks.   We know you can write a brand plan, roll out a promotion super fast and make snap decisions on creative.  But can you inspire your team to do the same?  Junior marketers have high ambitions–constantly wanting praise, but equally seeking out advice for how to get better.  Brand Managers are still learning to be brand owners, many times younger than they should be.  It becomes the director’s role to manage the talent–giving equal praise and challenges for how to get better.  A great  Brand Leader should be meeting quarterly with each team member one on one to take them through a quarterly performance review.   Waiting for the year-end is just not enough. Be passionate about people’s careers–anything less they’ll see it as merely a duty you are fulfilling.  

A Great Brand Leader shows up Consistently to the Sales Team:   As a Brand Leader, you have to be seen as one who is willing to listen.  Great salespeople challenge marketers to make sure their account wins. I’ve seen many sales teams destroy the Brand Leader because they don’t listen, and they stubbornly put forward their plan without sales input. Great Brand Leaders should informally meet with all key senior salespeople on a quarterly basis, to get to know them and let them know you are listening to their problems.  With this forum, you’ll get more of the bubbling up of problems–not just waiting for problems to explode. If salespeople feel they’ve been heard, they are more apt to follow the director’s vision and direction.   Many times, the debate can be healthy and help the salespeople frame the story they need to tell with their accounts.  Be the one Brand Leader that consistently reaches out and listens. They’ll be in shock and stand behind your business.

A Great Brand Leader Delivers Consistent Results:  A great Brand Leader hits the numbers and yet when they don’t hit them, they are the first to own it and put forward a recovery plan before being asked. They have an entrepreneurial spirit of ownership, rather than just being a corporate pencil pusher. Proactive communication upwards and with your own team. Reach out for help across the organization.  Know your business and let everyone know what you know. Be the leader that makes everything perfectly transparent–everyone will follow you.

You might also enjoy this article

Eight Leader Behaviors to Be Great Brand Leader

Challenge Yourself: If you knew that showing up differently would drive better Brand results, then could you show up differently?


Here’s a presentation on Successful Marketing Careers:  

Other Roles You May Be Interested In
  • Brand Manager:  It becomes about ownership and strategic thinking within your brand plan.  Most Brand Managers are honestly a disaster with their first direct report, and get better around the fifth report.  The good ones let the ABM do their job; the bad ones jump in too much, frustrated and impatient rather than acting as a teacher.  To read about being a successful Brand Manager, read:  How to be a Successful Brand Manager
  • Marketing Director:  It’s more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing.  Your role is to set the standard and then hold everyone to that standard.  To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best.  Let your best people shine, grow and push you.  Follow this hyper link to read more:   How to be a Successful Marketing Director
  • VP Marketing or CMO:  It’s about leadership, vision and getting the most from people.  If you are good at it, you won’t need to do any marketing, other than challenging and guiding your people to do their best work. You have to deliver the results, and very few figure out the equation that the better the people means the better the work and in the end the better the results. Invest in training as a way to motivate your team and keep them engaged.  Use teaching moments to share your wisdom. Read the following article for how to be a success:  How to be a Successful VP of Marketing


Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Monthly Report: One of the first tasks they assign the ABM is writing the monthly sales and share report.  Not only is a necessity of the business, but it’s your best training ground for doing a deep dive on analytics and strategic writing.   To read how to write a Monthly Report, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Monthly Report
  2. 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 hyperlink:  How to Write an Effective Brand Positioning Statement
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits 

I run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

To reach out directly, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.

If you approve a 6 out of 10, then maybe you are the one to blame.

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

I remember when one of my brand managers came into see me to try to get my approval on a small tactical print ad. I didn’t know much about the ad, because it was a small ad, on a small budget. But here I was, ready to approve. I looked down and saw something so boring. It was likely on strategy, but it would never capture anyone’s attention, it would never drive anyone’s desire, and most importantly no one would love the brand. It was just awful. But I’ve always prided myself at being a believer in the bottom up approach to management. I couldn’t crap all over it. So we both sat in silence as I stared down at the ad in front of me. I didn’t know what to say, I wasn’t sure I could really even give feedback on how to making it better.  So I asked one of the best questions I’ve ever asked in my life.

I said “do you love it?”

The brand manager shrugged his shoulder said “no, not really. It’s ok”

And that was one of the worst answers I had ever heard.

I slid it back across the table and said “bring me back something you love”.

If you don’t love the work you do, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand?

If you don’t love it, you won’t fight for its life.  Having executed many great marketing programs over the years, I can safely say I can remember the fight like it was yesterday. Somewhere along the way, there would be a fight.  That might be with your boss, your boss’ boss all the way up through the organization.  It might be with the agency, whether it’s the creative director of VP of Accounts.  Or it could be with director on set.

Will you work hard enough to make it perfect? Greatness takes passion, precision and dedication.  While most of my marketing life was 8-6 pm, I knew that about 10 times a year I’d work till 1am. But I went to bed proud. If you don’t love it will make sure everything is just perfect.

Approving OK is the slippery slope to OK.  You start to think “good enough”, you start to lose pride, Yes, there always constraints:  deadlines, budgets alignment. But if there becomes a culture where OK is accepted than that becomes the goal. I talked to one potential client who was #5 in the category. They were buying into everything I was saying. Looked like i would be helping them out. Then they phoned and said “we know we are #5, but we’ve decided #5 is good enough, because even we improve our brand we’ll just be a stronger #5”   Wow.  

Explaining what a Marketer does to non-Marketers is odd because we don’t really do anything.  We don’t make the product, we don’t make the ads or public relations and we don’t even sell it. Yet the Brand Leader is held responsible for sales, share and profits. And they should be. While we don’t do anything, we do have a say in everything that goes on about the brand and we sit in the seat that can inspire everyone around you, or it can be the one that inhibits creativity and suck the life out of everyone around you.  As you sit in the Brand Leader role, the worst thing you can ever do is say “Yes” to OK ideas.

If you’ve ever said “Yes” to an OK idea, you know that you lost a bit of who you wanted to be.  And you know the work can only get worse.

Execution is half the battle and OK is the enemy

As a Brand Consultant, I can tell you that strategy is only half the battle. Execution is the other half.  That execution could show up in print ad like above, or even a new product, or a waiter serving table 16. Never settle for OK. 

Rejecting OK work is not easy, especially if you have a reputation for playing it safe and approving OK.   It is always tempting to look at all the work that’s been presented to you and figure out which one is the best.  So you pick the 6 out of 10, and make some recommendations that might it up to a 6.5.

Because you don’t really do any of the work, not only do you need to REJECT OK, but you have to inspire the greatness to come from others.

Execution does matter. While we want great execution against great strategy, I’d say that great execution against an OK strategy is better off than OK execution against a great strategy.  In today’s crowded marketing world, where consumers see 6,000 ads a day, standing out is more important than it ever has been.

If you are up for the change, you should start at the beginning of the process. Sit with your lead account person and lay out your deepest thoughts on how you want your passion for the work to come shining through.  Find the language that translates your passion accurately at the outset and then be consistent to that passion throughout. Here’s what I have said in the past: “I know we need an Ad that delivers the strategy, sells more product and drives share. But I also need an Ad that I love, that I’m proud of and something I can hold up and say I DID THIS”. I always felt “I have to love it” is the highest bar you can set.  It also gives you the out by saying “I just don’t love it”.  Tell your account person, you are building in extra time in the process just so we can see if we can really push to get to great.

But saying is one thing, doing is another. Be consistent at every stage because people follow how you say it as much as what you say. Write an inspiring brief that is open on creativity, and isn’t filled with support points or mandatory requirements. Ask to meet the creative people before the first creative meeting so you can talk about your expectations that you want to create work we all love. At the creative meeting, you need to stay open, positive and push for different because that is usually where greatness lays.  Follow your instincts first. Absorb the work in the same way your consumer might. Reach for words that describe your instincts and how you feel about the work. Stay open and inspiring. Do not get into all the details or the changes you want–save those for a post meeting email. Talk only about the work you love–don’t even talk about the ones you don’t like. You want your positive energy to come through.

It’s one thing to inspire but it’s another thing to actually go for it.    I find it strange that Brand Leaders always push for a strategic point of difference no matter how small–but when it comes to execution many of us fear sticking our neck out and looking different.  When it comes down to making the choice, you need to show everyone how serious you are by taking a chance on greatness and not just picking the safe options.  You have to be wiling to fight for it, because you can imagine that there will be push back.  This is your opportunity to shine, your opportunity to inspire everyone on your team and your opportunity to push for true greatness for your brand.   And you’ll bring back those feelings of excitement that you had the day you decided to get into marketing.

You can only Reject OK, if you are willing to inspire greatness.


To read more about Beloved Brands and how to turn love into more power and profits:


Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

Positioning 2016.112

How will Brand Leaders Win with Media in the Future?

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

I’m not a media expert at all.  So there will be no answers here, just questions about where I might be confused about the future or where I might see an impact to my media thinking. I come at everything through the lens of the Brand Leader. My questions are more about the impact on consumer behaviour and how the brand can win through media in the future.  If you’re a media expert, feel free to add solutions. At this point, like most Brand Leaders, I’m a bit confused and I just have questions, not really solutions!

1. Will people watch even more TV in the future? 

I love asking this question because it usually confuses people, because of the expected downward trend of TV viewership over the last 10 years. At first, this question might sound crazy, but with more tablets and instant internet access everywhere, we should expect a shift to watching more TV, not less.  This year, books are up 13% due to increased readership via tablets. Will we see that impact to TV? More access means more use. If you’re on the subway, an airplane, waiting to pick up your kids or on your lunch hour, wouldn’t it be great just to catch an episode of Modern Family?  Now you can. And while this is at the early stages with early adopters, we’ll quickly see it going mass over the next few years. But the TV model will have to change. Consumers won’t want to be watching 8 minutes of TV ads. It seems people see their computer as their personal space and they find intrusive advertising even more annoying on their computer than they do their TV. We need a new model for TV advertising–I haven’t seen it yet.

As a Brand Leader, I recommend that you don’t give up on TV just yet. Maybe it will be on a tablet or a phone.  Just be a bit more creative.  Maybe you need to make your spots more interesting to take advantage of viral shares.  Make sure your spots are more engaging so people want to watch rather than just tolerate.  Be open to integrating your brand right into the shows, or maybe go back to the past when  brand sponsorship kicked off every 1950s TV show.

2. How can Advertisers Capture the Internet Babies (12-22 years old) as they move into adulthood?

As someone said, this segment never “goes on-line” because they are “always on-line”. They are never “off-line”. Last year, my 14-year-old daughter had 3 friends over and when teens visit, you have to expect a bit of excess noise. All of a sudden, there was silence for 20 minutes. I thought they must have left but then I see four teenagers all sitting at the kitchen table texting away, not a word being said. Complete silence.  This generation lives on-line and put their lives on-line. It remains confusing as to their true view of privacy–do they want more or do they just figure their lives are an open book.

This group has their priorities shaped by the age of instant access. They want everything now–sports scores, rumours, or videos of what they just saw on TV. They are multi-tasking so much it’s arguable they never give anything complete focus. When they watch TV, they have the laptop up, their cell phone in hand–navigating Facebook, twitter, texting, instagram and Skype all at once.  No wonder ADD is growing.  They choose Apps over software, expecting an App solution for any problem they have. They see advertising as completely ubiquitous and are more open to brands than other generations. But how they consume media is completely different. E-Commerce is an expectation, as they buy songs, games and movies or a new phone case at a whim.

As a Brand Leader, we need help to figure out how to win with this group when they turn 25?  I know as a parent of this age group, I have no wisdom I can pass on. Maybe someone in this age group can help us out, because I’m utterly confused.

3. Can Newspapers even survive? 

So far, newspapers haven’t figured out the profit model between the traditional broadsheet and the on-line versions. Making it free was likely a mistake, and makes it hard to turn back.  If your newspaper has been free on-line since 1997, I’ll be pissed off if you now expect me to pay for it. If I’m interested in the topic, I’ll just Google the same headline and find a free version. As long as newspaper publishers see a direct link between the actual broadsheet and the newspaper they run the risk of extinction. If you think a newspaper is a collection of amazing journalists, you’re off to a good start. But if you think it has to be a broadsheet, then you’re completely lost. 

News now is instant, ubiquitous and more casual/social.  The tweeting that went on during the US presidential debate (e.g. Big Bird) is evidence of how social media drives the story.  I don’t need to read a journalists take on it. I already know. By the time the broadsheet version of the newspaper is ready, this story is now old news and even has had 12-18 more hours to evolve into a completely new story line. The broadsheet can’t keep up. I love the business model for the Huffington Post. What started as on-line political opinion is becoming a source for broader news–entertainment, sports and lifestyle stories.  With more publishers going without a printed version (e.g. Newsweek just announced they’re cancelling their printed version), this has to be the future.    

As a Brand Leader, I’d recommend moving your Newspaper spend on-line or even choose other mainstream media options.  You’ve put up with the bad production quality for 100 years–is there really anyone under 50 still reading.

4. Can advertisers figure out how to win in the new world?  

The Commodity Brands that have funded mainstream media remain completely confused. 

Traditional media has always been funded by advertisers whether that means TV ads for 8-12 minutes per hour, newspapers and magazines with 25-40% of the space for ads and radio with ads every second song. Traditional Media has been free as long as you were willing to put up with advertising interrupting your usage of the media. That ability to interrupt consumers allowed the Commodity Brands (dish soap, diapers, toothpaste, razor blades and batteries) to break through to consumers, as they sat captive and watching their favourite TV show.

But New Media is free, unbridled and fairly commercial free. In general, a lot of the advertising still just sits there along the sidelines where we don’t click. While the high interest and high involvement brands have started to figure out how to use the New Media, the Commodities remain in a state of confusion. If you want to see what confusion looks like, go see Head and Shoulder’s twitter page with 320 followers or Bounce’s Facebook page “where they talk about fresh laundry” (their words, not mine)

These Commodity brands need to either get people more involved, which Dove is the best in class brand, or they need dial-up the potential importance for a core target which Tide has done a good job.  As we see many of the new media companies (Facebook) struggling to figure out how to make more money from Advertisers, there needs to be a step up in creativity to find new solutions. Banner ads that just sit along the side aren’t going to do much for the advertiser or the media owner. If social media sites want to win over these commodity brands, they need find that right balance of interrupting consumers without annoying their membership.

5.  Are there too many social media options?

I know there are still new social media options every month, but most of these feel fairly niche.  In the mainstream social media sites, we are seeing that winners have emerged and they are turning into leaders as Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Linked In and Wikipedia all now dominant in their given area.  It looks impossible for a new entrant to really challenge them. If a new entrant were to try for leap-frog strategy, these leaders would just duplicate the innovation and kill the challenger. Every industry has gone through a similar pattern:  early innovation, divergence of brand options, then a few power brands emerge, and then a power play where the strong squeeze out the weak through mergers and acquisitions until there are a handful of brand owners remaining.

As these Social Media sites look to turn their power into wealth, we will see a shift from fighting for members to fighting for advertiser dollars. This will likely force a convergence of social media options where the strongest brands try to squeeze out the smaller sites. There are already small signs in Google’s strategy they are thinking this way–trying to be the one stop shop. Mergers are always tend to surprise us, almost the unimaginable.  Can you imagine Facebook buying LinkedIn? Who knows, maybe we’ll even see a merger between social media brands and mainstream networks. AOL already tried it with Time-Warner. But can you imagine Google buying CNN, Facebook buying MTV or NBC buying the Huffington Post?   If you’re an Advertiser, expect some uncertainty in the next few years and expect a few mergers.

6. Will new media people ever be able to convince Brand Leaders of what they should do?

Marketers love what they know. It feels safe. The people who spend 100% of their lives living and breathing new media know what Brand Leaders don’t know. The problem is there is no bridge between the Brand Leader and New Media.  New Media don’t really get the marketers, don’t understand their motivations and how they think.  So they just keep barking and no one is listening. Here are some tips: Start with the consumer and map out how they interact. Don’t start with the media. Demonstrate to me that you understand my brand:  who is my target, how do they shop, what is my main benefit, the key issues I face, strategic options available and how my brand makes money.   Show me things other brands in my predicament have done and the results.  Be fundamental in the way you talk with me.  Look at how I was trained, strategy first, tactics second, execution third.  Go in that order so I can follow along.  Don’t show me what Bud did on the Super Bowl.  Teach me as much as you can, because if I have more knowledge I’ll be more comfortable.  And help me to sell it in, because everyone above me is even more confused than I am.  Right now, we are a little scared and we’re doing this because we know we should, not because we know what we’re doing.  Help us.  

When it comes to new media, Brand Leaders still need to be fundamentally sound


For a Media Overview that can help Brand Leaders get better media plans by learning more about both traditional and digital options, read the following presentation:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

Positioning 2016.112

Is Blackberry ripe for a comeback?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Blackberry created the entire smart phone category–and yet in the last 24 months, it has drifted into near obscurity. Blackberry’s biggest issue was arrogance as it thought it was invincible to attack. As the brand faced complete collapse, the ousting of its two founders and the dramatic loss in market share, the arrogance is certainly gone. But, Blackberry has also been a victim of thinking about the device first and the consumer second.  

Blackberry also lacked that attention to the detail of the art of the phone that Apple has made us love. Yes, there was a camera, but a bad one. Yes, they had apps, but way fewer and they lacked magic. And yes, they had a browser and links to your favorite social media sites but it was slow, unpredictable and a complete pain in the ass some days. Once we figured out that you had to take the battery out and put it back in again, we started to think of the Blackberry as kind of pathetic. 

The height of Blackberry

If i was writing this in 2008, Blackberry would be one of the most beloved brands in the world. Those of us who were addicted were dubbed “Crackberry Addicts”. Even as the iPhone was just launching, many of us Blackberry fans weren’t quite ready to switch. Yes, the iPhone was great if you were an artist or worked at an Ad Agency, but if you had a corporate job, then Blackberry was the status symbol you wanted.   For many corporations, the Blackberry was a reward of job level or title at work. Getting that Blackberry meant you had made it.  It was totally a self expressive status symbol of the corporate world. And recognizing that status, the Stock Price soared upwards to peak in 2008 at $150. Billionaires were made, articles were being written as though they were….Steve Jobs.
Love Curve Detailed

The Crash

The crash was steady and the crash was fast. Not only were there better phone choices in the market, Blackberry’s arrogance seemed reluctant to do anything about it. They stood still and the product became inferior. The keyboard would stick, the camera was pathetic, the browser would get stuck daily and the speaker phone was weak. While the world was migrating over to the iPhone or the Android, the worst thing was when those same corporate VP’s in your office started showing up with their new iPhone at work.  “What….we can get one of those now?”.  And all of a sudden, the corporate world wanted to switch over.  Blackberry had lost their base user–the corporate guys.

The last straw was the launch of the Blackberry Playbook, a late response to the iPad that it had mocked only 18 months earlier. There were many problems with the Playbook–no point of difference being the biggest. The price point dropped quickly. There were no real Apps. And it seems that it was a quick opportunistic launch by Blackberry. No one wanted it. It was almost dead on arrival. People were willing to grant Blackberry a Mulligan, but when they started to ask “so what’s next?” the answer Blackberry gave was “we’re not quite sure, let us get back to you”.

The stock price went from a high of $150 down below $20.  There were dramatic lay offs and then further dramatic share losses.  They courted potential buyers, such as Samsung, who came in and looked around and said no thanks. The stock price continued to fall as the brand was on life support–all the way down to $6.

One of the quickest falls from Beloved Brand down to Indifferent.  The term “crackberry” is gone from our lingo.   Blackberry went from corporate status symbol to a bit of a loser.  People sheepishly bring out the blackberry in public ready with the excuse of “I’m on a 3 year service plan, and then I’m switching”.

We Love a Comeback Story

Here comes Blackberry 10. The stock price has doubled in the last month. But for Blackberry to make it back to the status of a to Beloved Brand, they need to focus on the Five connectors of a Beloved Brand:  1) Brand Promise 2) Strategy 3) Brand Story 4) Freshness and 5) Experience.  


When Blackberry first made it big in the 2001-2003 time frame, they put all their efforts behind the Innovation which was closely connected to the Experience. It was a “here’s what we do, we hope you like it” communication.  That’s OK when you are as revolutionary as Blackberry was. Being able to send an email from anyone was such a revolution, that consumers did the rest of the work. We had never seen anything like it, and it changed our lives forever!!!! But once Blackberry faced some competitors, we never saw them effectively tell their brand story and their lack of innovation caused the experience to fall short on the experience. They were basically a ‘one-and-done’ innovation that made it big, but they never really successfully evolved.  

In 2013, the market is crowded with Samsung and Apple battling it out. For Blackberry to break through they need to effectively tell their story to their target market. From the looks of the reviews, they are mixed–which is not a bad position. Many reviewers are locked and loaded on Apple and Android. It will be a battle for Blackberry to win through critics.  

USP 2.0

Brands need to be either different,better or cheaper. Or not around for very long. Does this new Blackberry 10 feel all that different from what you can get with Apple or Samsung?  

I’d love to see Blackberry speak to one audience, and stop talking to the masses. Get back to that corporate VP who once was in love with the Blackberry brand and show them why they should love you again. It’s now time to find a niche you can win over and powerfully defend.   You have to matter to those who care.    

Telling the Blackberry Story

For the come back to work, Blackberry must do what they’ve always been bad at: Telling the brand story.   Culturally, Blackberry has known to not really care about advertising. They brought in a high powered CMO a few years ago. He walked out the door after 9 months because no one wanted to listen to him.  

So let’s look at what we are seeing so far. Let me be critical of what we’re seeing so far because so far it’s not very good.  

Whoever made this launch video isn’t getting it. It’s two boring guys who look like they should be in suits that have decided to leave the suit off so they can look cool and casual.  I’m not a wardrobe consultant, but heck why not put on a $2000 suit and look like a damn boss. Let Apple own the casual. Secondly, the demo is bad.  The whole communication is about how easy the “flow” of movements are, except in the on-stage demo, it’s not working. That can’t happen. It sends the signal of one of Blackberry’s weakness–lack of attention to detail. While Apple might screw up the maps or other things, they would never mess up an on-stage demo.  


This cute little launch video is awful. It might have worked in 2005 when Blackberry had a monopoly. But it does nothing to separate the Blackberry brand from the crowded market. The lack of voice-over type ad only works for iconic brands that need very little to say. But for a small brand going after a niche, it needs to separate itself with a balance of logic and emotion.  


I’m a former Blackberry lover who wants to love Blackberry again. I hope that Blackberry can find a way to make the most of the Blackberry 10 and even if they make a mini-comeback, it would be good for the market. But, as a consumer, I’m not seeing enough for me to trade in my iPhone.  

What’s Your Vote?  Will Blackberry have a successful comeback?  


To read other stories on Brand Leadership, click on any of the topics below:

 Positioning 2016.112


Ten Resolutions for Brand Leaders in 2013

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Happy New Year!!!   

As we approach the new year, it’s a great time to come back fresh from the break and challenge yourself to get better.  In the words of T.S.  Eliot: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice”.

#1:  Take a walk in your consumer’s shoes. See the brand as they do. It’s not just about doing research and finding consumer insights. It’s about experiencing the brand as your consumer does. Bringing the consumer into everything you do tightening the connection. Consumers do not care what you do, until you care about what they want. In 2013, be the spokesperson who represents the consumer to your team and watch the work get better. When doing TV ads or digital ads, realize that the consumer now sees 5,000+ brand messages per day: Would this capture their attention, would they get it and would they do anything with it? Read the following article that puts the consumer front and center in what we do: Everything Starts and Ends with the Consumer

#2:  Ask bigger questions, get bigger answers. As a senior Brand Leader, it is easy to get so wrapped up in the details of the execution that you’re making the non-strategic decisions on behalf of the team. You have just really become the “senior” Senior Brand Manager that really annoys your team. Instead of providing the team with a vision, challenging on strategy or teaching the team, you’re telling them to make the flash bigger and change the sell sheet to purple. Instead of telling people what to do, why not challenge yourself to sit back slightly and ask the really tough challenging questions.  You’ll know you’ve asked a really tough question when you don’t even know the answer. To figure out the best questions, read:  Ask Bigger Questions, Get Bigger Answers

#3: Create more love for your brand and you’ll drive more power and profits for your Brand.   Brand Leaders are too logical for their own good. So much so that it’s holding their brand back from being great. To create more love for your brand, there are 5 sources of connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including the brand promise, the strategic choices you make, the brand’s ability to tell their story, the freshness of the product or service and the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you.  Once you have the connection with your consumers, use that power with retailers, media, competitors and even the very consumers that love you.  With added power, you’ll be able to drive bigger profits, with inelastic price, more efficiency in costs and consumers will follow your brand with every new product launch or category you enter.  Realize the magic formula and find more growth for your brand in 2013:  Love = Power = Growth = Profit.  To read more about this, follow this link:  Brand Love = Power = Profit

#4: Focusing makes your Brand Bigger. Lack of focus makes it Smaller. I still see Brand Leaders struggling to focus. They want as broad of a selling target they can find so they can speak to everyone, yet in reality they speak with no one. They want so many messages, mainly because they don’t know what the consumer wants, so they just say everything they can think of. And they choose every media option because they don’t even know where they are, so they try to be everywhere. When you don’t make a choice, you don’t make a decision. Great marketers make choices–they use the word “or” instead of “and”. They apply their limited resources against the biggest potential win–with a focused target, focused message and focused medium to shout it in. They look bigger than they are to those who are the most motivated to already buy. To challenge yourself to focus, read:  Brand Focus Makes You Bigger

#5:  At every turn, ask yourself “DO I LOVE IT?” Reject all work that is “just ok” because OK is the enemy of Great.  Moving your brand from indifferent to Like It is relatively easy:  good product, smart investment and doing the basics right. But moving from “Like It” to “Love It” can be a herculean task. If you want your consumer to love your brand, you have to love the work you do. Look at the love Apple projects to its consumers through the magic of design, branding and marketing. Never let something out that’s “just ok”.  If you’re indifferent, then you’re brand will be as well. Challenge yourself in 2013 to lead yourself with passion equal to logic and find a way to love the work you do.  Read the following article at:  Reject OK because OK is the Enemy of Greatness

#6: Find your point of difference by being different. Brand Leaders always try to find that nugget as their point of difference. They get so logical and then try to make it a big deal in the consumers mind, even though many times the consumer does not care. And yet, these same Brand Leaders play it so safe that their work looks and feels just like everyone else. In 2013, push yourself to be different in your execution.  If the consumer sees 5,000 brand messages a day, they’ll only be attracted to something they’ve never seen before.  All the ‘me-too’ messages will be lost in a sea of sameness.  Whether it is new products, a new advertising campaign or media options push yourself to do something that stands out. Don’t just settle for ok. Always push for great.  If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?  The opposite of different, is indifferent and who wants to be indifferent. Read the following link:  The Art of Being Different

#7: Care more about the careers of your people: The best way to connect with your team is to care about their careers. If you are authentic i how you approach their development, they’ll do listen to your advice, follow your lead and give more effort than ever. If they feel they are getting the training and development needed, they’ll likely stay longer with your company. If they have added skills and motivation, their performance will be even better and if the work gets better, then the results will be better. For you the equation is simple: The better the people, the better the work and in turn the better the results. To read more on how to help with their careers, read the following link:  Managing Your Marketing Career (Free Download)

#8: Create a culture around your brand—Brand should be everyone’s job, not just marketing.  There are hundreds and sometimes thousands of people impacted by the vision, mission and values you set out for the brand. While most people will think the Brand Manager leads the brand, it’s the collective wisdom of all those who touch it. From Sales People negotiating on the brands behalf to HR people who pick the right people to various Agencies, right down to the Editor who works just one day on your brand.  Motivate them, embrace them, challenge them, lead them, follow them and reward them. Great people make great work and great work leads to great brands. In 2013, challenge yourself to realize that you need more than just you living the brand, you need everyone living and breathing it. The best case study on how to drive the brand right into the culture is Ritz Carlton: Ritz Carlton

#9: Be a better client and get better work: I get asked a lot: “So what is it that makes someone good at advertising?”.  I always think people are looking for some type of magical answer, but the answer I give is always very simple yet if you think about it very complex: “They can consistently get good advertising on the air and keep bad advertising off the air”. It all starts with being a better client thought. As David Ogilvy said “Clients get the work they deserve”. If you are your agency’s best client, you are much more likely to get the best of their work. To get better, read an article on the Worst Type of Clients

#10: Be a better Brand Leader. Be more Consumer focused and live as though Everything Starts and Ends With the Consumer in Mind. That’s why you got into this business isn’t it? Follow Your Instincts and use the gut feel of Marketing. If you have more fun, so to will the consumer. Revel in Ambiguity and be more patient with Ideas. It’s ok not to know for a little bit because that’s when the best answers come to the surface.  Actively Listen and  use more questions than answers. Focus on the People and the Results will come. Here is an article for you: Eight Brand Leader Behaviors

I really hope you try one of these out in 2013. And I hope you see the difference.  

Here’s to a Great Year in 2013!

To find ways to make your brand more loved, read the following presentation:


Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management.

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.

Positioning 2016.112

Google just wants to be Loved…but don’t we all?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Eight years ago Google talked about trying to do business without being evil. It was refreshing and ground-breaking in a world of excess greed. If only the Wall Street Bankers had done the same thing, maybe we wouldn’t be in this financial crisis. Yet, people criticize Google for saying they aren’t evil because of their tough way of doing business. Yes, Google has a near monopoly, but they have earned that position. Yes, they are agressive in the market and wield power over the market they compete in. I’d hate to be one of their competitors–just ask Yahoo and MSN. But don’t mix evil up with good ole smart capitalism and a high regard for empowering their beloved brand.

Recently the Larry Page, the CEO of Google took it even further towards being a beloved brand. In an open letter, he stated:

“We have always wanted Google to be a company that is deserving of great love.  We recognise this is an ambitious goal because most large companies are not well-loved, or even seemingly set up with that in mind.”

If you want to find the ways that Google has achieved love from their consumers, look in the list of “The Ten Things We Know to be True” that Google created very early on in their life. Any great brand could learn from that list–and very few brands live by these rules. In that list, Google proclamed they would “Focus on the user and all else will follow”. I wish every brand took such a consumer centric view, instead of just a product centric view. I always think that the consumer is the most selfish animal on the planet, and satisfying that consumer’s selfishness will turn you from just a usual sellling brand to a connected brand that consumers can not live without. Google also said: It’s best to do one thing really, really well. So many brands are trying to be all things to all people, that they end up diluting the meaning of their brand and the promise that leads their effort. A brand is a promise that you must be able to keep. Trying to do everything will ineviatably mean failure in breaking that promise. A beloved brand knows who their consumer is, and equally who is not their consumer. I hope Google stays true to this idea.Arguably Google has had a few little wiggles from the search focus, and wonder where they go with Google+. Wiggles are OK, diversions are not. And the other thing Google said was:  Great just isn’t good enough. Brand Leaders play it too safe too often and settle for OK. They don’t take any chances–they focus just on the logic and mind of the consumer. They fear trying to be emotional, because it feels uncertain. They end up boring and liked but they never reach the loved stage. Google on the hand states that Great is the starting point to push yourself beyond:

We see being great at something as a starting point, not an endpoint. We set ourselves goals we know we can’t reach yet, because we know that by stretching to meet them we can get further than we expected. Through innovation and iteration, we aim to take things that work well and improve upon them in unexpected ways.

Ironically, Google has produced one TV ad, and it’s one of the best in the last decade.  It’s very emotion and showcases the power that Google has in our lives.

Instead of criticizing Google for stating that they want to be loved, I’d like to see all Brand Leaders push themselves to be loved. Everything should start and end with the Consumer in mind. Beloved Brands intimately know their consumer and become a part of their life.  With most brands, Consumers move along a “LOVE CURVE” going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It, and then they’ll make their Beloved Brand into A Brand For Life.  The Love Consumers have for a Brand becomes a Source of Power, helping to change the dynamic the brand can have with suppliers, customers, competitors and even with the consumers themselves. There’s nothing wrong or evil with using that power to the advantage of the brand.

In fact, you need to find the way to leverage the power of being Beloved.  The “Love Curve” can be linked to the brand funnel which becomes the underlying scoreboard for the brand. And it helps to provide strategic focused against one key area of the funnel. Used properly, the brand power can drive the P&L with four levers:  increasing price, lowering costs, increasing share, creating new markets.  An efficient brand can leverage the P&L to invest back in the brand’s connectivity and drive profit and create value for the brand.

When it comes to execution, brand leaders play it far too safe. Too many times, they fail to do work that is good or different. They stick to the usual and sameness–resulting in boring work that fails to stand out. The zone you should be pushing for is Good But Different: It might not always test well, as it is beyond the consumer’s thinking. Consumers don’t have the imagination to always know what they want. They know their problems, just not the solutions. But once consumers start to see how the differences meets their needs, they’ll start to buy. It might feel like the highest risk but it also is the highest long-term sustainability and potential to be loved.

My challenge to you is to push yourself and your brand to find love by putting all your passion into the brand work you do. If you don’t love the work you do, how do you expect the consumer to fall in love with your brand?

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