Brand Management: How to be a great Brand Leader

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

It seems that marketing these days is more about “doing” than it is about “thinking”.  

“Activity Based Marketing” has replaced strategic brand management. Marketers are content if they are doing something, regardless if it is the right something. Everyone I interact with is too busy doing stuff, running from meeting to meeting, chasing the to do list. Marketers today are so busy, that they don’t have time to think. If you want to be a great marketer, you need to be carving out time to sit back in your chair and say “what’s next”.   

Are you Strategic?  

I know you want to say yes.  And I’m sure it’s on your Linked In profile.  So you must be. But if you are doing more activity than you are doing the thinking, then you aren’t really operating strategically. You are too busy chasing your own tail. Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions. They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planners who can see connections. Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions. They get to answers quickly, and will get frustrated in delays. They opt for action over thinking, believing that doing something is better than doing nothing. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. They can be frustrated by strategic thinkers. Look back at the past week and ask “are you acting strategically?”

Are You a Fundamentally Sound Marketer?

No matter how bright you are, if you haven’t been properly trained, then you aren’t realizing your full potential.  You likely are struggling with writing your brand plan, you aren’t quite sure what has to go onto the creative brief and you aren’t sure how to give an agency feedback. You’re not sure which media option makes the most sense for your brand. These days, marketing has become a completely “on the job” training ground. There’s very few fundamentals being taught. You are given a desk and a brand and told that “we think marketers learn on the job” and “we think it’s your boss who should be teaching you”. Since there has been a few generation of marketers who haven’t been trained, it’s very likely that your boss isn’t quite sure of the fundamentals of brand management.

If you are a bright, but you think you are lacking the fundamentals, you are not alone.    

Are you running the brand? Do you act like an owner?

Brand Manager has to have a mindset that reflects the CEO, accountable for growth, costs, profit and shareholder wealth. A great marketer runs the brand, rather than letting the brand run them.  The starting ground for running the brand is to have your finger on the pulse of the brand and make sure everything revolves around that pulse. Everything in the company should feed off the Brand DNA. The Brand DNA (many call it the Brand Essence) is the most succinct definition of the Brand.  For Volvo, it’s Safety, while BMW might be Performance and Mercedes is Luxury. The Brand’s DNA has an external and an internal.  Externally, you should be looking at the consumers’ view and the brand personality you’re trying to project outward to them. Internally, the products and the internal brand beacon should help align everyone working on the brand.   

The classic role of Brand Management is that the Brand Leader is at the hub and everything revolves around that Brand Leader. But in reality, they aren’t really revolving around the Brand Leader.  They are revolving around the Brand DNA and it’s just that the Brand Leader owns that DNA and uses it as a lens to judge all the activity around the Brand. That is the starting point of strategy.

Everything revolves around the Brand DNA

The Brand DNA should help frame 

  1. Brand Plan that drives the business for the upcoming year or the next 5 years 
  2. Brand Positioning that connects to the consumer through marketing communications 
  3. Customer Value Proposition that links the consumer needs to the benefits of the brand 
  4. Go-To-Market strategy that frames the distribution and the selling process 
  5. Cultural Beacons that help define the brand internally through values, inspiration and challenge and finally 
  6. Business Results, with each brand offering a unique way that it makes money. Each of these six needs feed off the Brand DNA, look to the definition as a guideline for how to align to the brand.  


When you begin to blow this out one step further, you can start to see where the complexity comes into play with each of the six areas have their own needs that should still feed off that Brand DNA.


Use the Brand Plan to drive the direction of the brand

The planning area should help to frame the Brand Plan, which is a combination of a one year Brand Plan and a 3-5 year strategic plan.  The Vision and Mission provide the future direction, objectives align to the Business needs and Brand Funnel objectives and Strategies and Tactics help to drive towards those objectives.  Included as well should be a Calendar and Budgets.  For a tutorial on how to write a Brand Plan, click on the following link:  How to Write a Brand Plan


From the DNA, map out a positioning statement that can help frame the Marketing Communications plan.  That includes the creative big idea, the media mix, earned media (PR, Events) social media, key influencers (e.g. Doctors or Contractors or Bloggers). As well, the positioning frames the identity which could include logo, language, look and feel and brand book. My hope is that you don’t change this very often.   Looking at the complexity of the Brand Management system outlined here, it baffles me that Brands facing tough times reach for changing their logo so quickly when so many other factors could be driving the issues. For a tutorial on writing Creative Briefs, click on:  How to Write an Effective Creative Brief

Staying on strategy is just as hard as coming up with the strategy 

If you don’t have time to think, then how do you know what you’re doing is the right thing to do?   The Go-To-Market plan should also feed off the Brand DNA and come out of the Brand Plan.  The Distribution strategy and needs should match up to the needs of the brand, including decisions around Key Account focus, pricing, sku mix, promotion and the possible role of new products.  In a fast-moving category like cereal or gum, or a high technology driving category like computers, phones or TVs, both share a high need for product innovation.  For brands that require in store selling, you should also include the In-store experience which could be demonstration, signage or trial as well as possible selling messages for sales people on the floor of the distribution channel.  These messages should feed directly from the brand messages.

The R&D plan should feed off the Brand DNA and develop products that match the brand.  Too many times, R&D is in their own world, trying to invent things that have nothing to do with where the brand sits.  They expect marketing to be able to sell their inventions.  Even in a technology driven business, Apple is driven first by the consumer.  Steve Jobs really understood that you don’t just sell what you have.

Brand also drives the Culture and the DNA should provide a beacon for the People to follow. The brand story told within the company is even more important than what you might tell the market through your advertising. Talent management means hiring the right people and providing the right training. Too many companies are cutting back on training. Remember that better people produce better work that drives better results. Keep investing in your people and the business results will come.  Empower your people to get the most from their ideas.  Leverage values, inspirational touch points and processes to inspire and challenge them on achieving greatness.

Managing the Brand

Brand drives the Business Results. The more loved a brand, the more tightly the connection it has with their consumers. This connection becomes a source of power that the brand can wield in the market to drive higher growth rate and profitability. The Brand Leader is responsible for driving the P&L, driving sales and share, managing the forecast and costs for an efficiently run brand. The Brand Leader must figure out the levers of the P&L it can use to drive more profits. For a tutorial on driving profits through your brand, click on:  How to Drive Profits through Your Brand

Leading the Brand

Putting the Brand Leader front and centre will allow you to leverage the Brand DNA into each of the areas of your business, whether that’s marketing, sales, R&D, finance or human resources. The Brand Leader should be at the centre of this hub, with each area looking to the Brand DNA as a beacon of how they can do their job most effectively in helping the brand drive long-term growth and profitability.

Here’s a robust summary on Brand Management that looks at it through 8 areas:  

      1. Beloved = Power = Growth = Profit
      2. Brand DNA and Vision
      3. Brand Promise
      4. Brand Analytics
      5. Brand Plan
      6. Execution
      7. Managing
      8. Leading



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 Best Super Bowl Ads of All Time

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Super-Bowl-47-LogoEven though I’m almost over the Patriots loss from last weekend, let’s start Super Bowl week off with a tribute to all the great Super Bowl ads over the years.  

I hope a few of these spots bring back some good memories for you and if there are any special ones missing for you, feel free to add them in the comments.  

Coke “Mean Joe Greene” (1979)

Bit of that 1970s “cheese” for you, but I remember this one from my teens.  The spot has become as iconic as the drink itself.  

Apple 1984 (1984)

Great story of this ad in the Steve Jobs book–how the board never wanted to run it and they lied about the media commitment.  This was one of the first big Super Bowl ads, that changed the way advertisers saw the Super Bowl slots.    

Diet Pepsi Michael J Fox (1987)

A little bit of that “Back to the Future” feel of the 1980s Michael J Fox.  Very cute tone is a good fit for Pepsi.    

McDonald’s Jordan vs Bird (1992)

This one had a lot of break through and left us with the phrase “nothing but net”.  The current Tiger Woods/Rory McIlroy spot uses (steals) the same formula.  

Cindy Crawford “New Can” (1992)

Not much needs to be said about this one, other than that they repeated this 10 years later and she still looked the same.  

Budweiser: WASSUP! (1999)

The simplicity of this one, but it really does capture a male-bonding insight of how guys do interact with their buddies.  

FedEx “Pigeons”

FedEx has been using sarcastic humor to make their point for years.  This spot has a good feel with the FedEx tone.  

Snicker’s Betty White (2010)

Whatever Betty was paid, she’s made millions since because of this spot.  Quickly after this one, the power of a Facebook page demanded that Betty host Saturday Night Live.  A great little spot, one that Snicker’s has yet to fully capture in their pool outs on this campaign.   

Chrysler Eminem (2011)

I love the tone of this spot, perfect casting with Eminem–the rawness of his voice, attitude and authenticity.  The repeat in 2012 using Clint Eastwood was a good spot as well, but not quite up to the Eminem version.  “Imported from Detroit” is a very big idea.  Love it.  

Budweiser 9/11 Tribute (2002)

Even after all these years, this one might bring a tear to your eye.  Months after the tragedy of 9/11, this one takes the American icons of Budweiser and the Clydesdales marching through the streets of America and gives a nice salute to NYC.  

Good luck to this year’s Super Bowl, as many of us will be watching the TV ads as much as we’re watching the game.  The power of the venue as the Super Bowl out draws the final game of the other 3 sports (Baseball, Basketball and Hockey) combined.  

And I lied: I’m not quite over the Patriots loss yet.  

What’s Your Favorite Super Bowl Ad of all time?

To see a training presentation on getting better Advertising: 


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Read more on how to utilize our Brand Leadership Learning Center where you will receive training in all aspects of marketing whether that’s strategic thinking, brand plans, creative briefs, brand positioning, analytical skills or how to judge advertising.  We can customize a program that is right for you or your team.  We can work in person, over the phone or through Skype.  Ask us how we can help you.

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How to land your first marketing job

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

You have to want that marketing job, more than anyone else.

marketing jobThere are more people want to be an Assistant Brand Manager than there are jobs. So how bad do you want this job?

Do you want it more than everyone else? Will you do what it takes to get that job? I interviewed so many times before I got the job. And, I must have gone through 100 interviews before I finally landed a position.

I remember one time, after 3 minutes the hiring manager looked at my resume and said: “you have zero marketing experience, this won’t work.” That one still stings after 25 years but made me want it even more.

Persistence has to be the key. If you are only half trying, then I have minimal sympathy. If you are completely immersed in the effort, trust me, you will eventually break through.

How to set yourself up:


MBAs were the #1 source of our ABMs. It gave us the chance to have a consistency in our recruiting efforts, allowed us to have a focused timing for the hiring and even a consistency in starting dates so we could measure and compare ABMs.  One of the silent secrets no one can say is that an MBA ensures that ABMs are the late 20s, rather than 22–which makes it easier for them to work with the sales teams. Now, people always ask me: “Do I need an MBA?” My answer is “No, but it sure helps.” It allows you to be part of the formal recruiting process, get in the front door and be judged by that very process, rather than just a one-off hiring manager who is in a panic and doesn’t know what they want. My question to you is “Can you do an MBA?” because if you can, I’d recommend it.

Headhunters and Recruiters:

Recruiters were our second source for ABMs, especially when we needed ABMs outside of the formal recruiting process. Some Headhunters specifically fill ABM roles, and you should make sure you connect with them. If you are lucky, you can get a headhunter who gives you tips on your resume or feedback on your interview. Ask for the input. Stay in touch regularly.


As the economy has gotten worse, some companies have cut back on the use of Head Hunters and opted for using a “finder’s fee” to employees that recommend someone. So if you can connect with ABMs that already work at the company, they have an incentive to get you hired. The advantages to networking are they’ll tell you the hiring manager, process and interview tips. They’ll also alert you to when someone quits. I would recommend you write down the 10-20 companies you want to work for and get networking with other ABMs, BMs or the HR manager.

Experience in the company:

A generation ago, many started in sales and then moved over to marketing. It still can happen, but it’s becoming less common. If you try this route, push to get over the marketing quickly, so you don’t get stuck in a role you don’t want.

Job posting:

Don’t wait for the postings, or you’ll be missing out on most of the jobs. The HR department puts up the job posting, either because the company has exhausted all other methods. The posting doesn’t always mean there is a job, but HR using it to fill the résumé bank. The new process of hiring is to go on to Linked In and put “We are Hiring” in job groups.

The Interview Process

On average, you’ll need 4-5 interviews to land the job–likely one with HR, a couple at the manager level and a couple at the director level. If it’s part of the formal recruiting process, then you need to realize you are being judged at every moment, from the on-campus event to the potential dinner/lunch during the interviews and even how you act between interviews. If they give you a mentor to help you, that person will also have influence. In our debrief about candidates, there were just as many comments about things beyond the interviews as there were the interviews themselves.

Many interviews are moving to the behavioral style where they might say: “tell me a time when you had a conflict…” You need to translate all your strengths and weaknesses into stories that show you have experience in the given area. Write down your answers in the form of Situation Action and Result. Learn how to tell the stories so that it answers the question and showcases your strengths.  Even if people don’t ask you the “tell me a time…” questions, it can be powerful for you to answer in that method.

What’s your weakness?

You will still get asked, “what’s your weakness?”. It’s such a cliché question now, but it still gets asked. I once had a candidate tell me they hated ambiguity, which was pretty much the death-nail. Avoid the BS style “I’m too hard on myself” or “I work too hard.” You sound annoying. The safest option I would recommend is “I’m not very good at negotiating” which is a skill that’s not that important for marketing.

Here are the Interview Questions that I used to Ask:

Tell me a time you used numbers to sell an idea?

You better have your story tight because your answer will be questioned one or two more levels to see if you know your stuff. Great Marketers can tell stories with analysis.

What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done?

It doesn’t matter what it was, but how far did you push yourself out of your comfort zone to find the creative solution.  Your passion for your idea should come through.

What’s the one thing that makes you proud?

When I read your résumé, I want to see significant accomplishments beyond your work experience or school. Football, chess, traveling the world or charity work. I want to hear your story and your pride come through. Great Marketers accomplish things, and I want to know that you have a history of accomplishments. Don’t tell just what you did, tell me what you ACCOMPLISHED!

Tell me a time when you’ve convinced your boss of something they thought wouldn’t work.

I want to see if you can make it happen. This answer should show your leadership, selling skills, and willingness to push. A great Marketer can get what they want..

If you were Justin Bieber’s agent, how would you maximize his value as a spokesperson?

I always took something in the pop culture news and asked how you would handle it. I was looking to see how curious you are and how you could make something with very little subject matter expertise and put together a plan. A great Marketer has a curiosity and can form opinions quickly. This answer lets me see your thinking. Pop culture is a great area that goes beyond books.

If you were on a team that solved a severe healthcare problem for society, what factors would you use to price it on the global level?

This answer is a very complicated question with many issues, especially adding in the global problem. I want to see you think through those issues and layer those issues into your answer. How do you handle the differences between North America and the Third World? How important is profitability vs. R&D vs. compassion? Moreover, how would you leverage government, key influencers and where would that fit into your answer. Great marketers can handle ambiguity, and there is a lot within this case.

From your previous Interview with our company, what’s the biggest mistake you made and how would you now change that?

Great marketers are continually pushing themselves to improve. That starts with your assessment. I want to see that you have thought about it and now see a better solution. It also puts you under a bit of unexpected pressure to know how you handle that.

What questions do you have for me?

To me, this is one of the most critical sections. It demonstrates how engaged you are in the process. The quality of your questions will help to separate you. Have five great questions done ahead of time, ask about 2-3 each interview. Ask deep questions, not surface questions. Turn each answer into a conversation starter.

Act like you want the job.

Show a bit of spunk and energy through the interviews.  Marketing jobs are a bit different. Take a Red Bull before the interview. Be leaning forward, make eye contact, be comfortable and dynamic in your personality.

Best of luck to you, and go for it.  


Here’s a presentation on Brand Management careers:  

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will 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 through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands book

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Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.


Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.


New TV ad from Samsung: Is it “smart” to take on Apple?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

As the two brands battle in the tablet and smart phone market, the most recent TV ads by Samsung have them mocking Apple consumers. They are pretty funny ads, a good parody of the most loyal of loyal Apple consumers.  

I love them. But are they a smart strategy?  

As an Apple fan, they even make me laugh at myself, a little bit how I laugh at myself for not buying the Apple stock at $150….$250….$400 or even $550 earlier this year. While Apple might have had a sloppy news week (apology over the new map or some bitterness over the new iPhone 5’s new charger) the brand still has tremendous momentum as they continue to broaden their audience. In fact, iPhone 5 has outsold iPhone 4 by 1 million units in the first weekend.  

These Samsung ads probably will sell a few more Galaxy phones, but it won’t do the two main things that it’s intended to do: 1) It won’t change how people feel about the Apple brand and 2) It won’t really change how people feel about the Samsung brand.

Samsung is not a brand driven company–but rather a product driven. Even with all the sales, my Brand Love Index research shows that 48% of consumers are mainly Indifferent about Samsung brand–while some “Like It”. This contrasts to the frenzy that consumers have with 71% seeing Apple as a beloved brand and no one is Indifferent to the brand. Even the Sony brand still surprisingly outperforms Samsung, even though they’ve really been struggling to keep pace on anything electronics–TVs, phones, computers.

In general, successful brands are usually either better, different or cheaper. The Samsung brand has found strength in being “cheaper”. Samsung is the type of brand that you might switch to at the store level when you find out that you can get more features for 100 bucks less.   But then you don’t really brag about it to your friends.  

With this summer’s past lawsuit the judge summed up the Samsung brand when he dismissed one of Apple’s lawsuits.  Judge Colin Birss declared:

So while these are good and funny ads, the research would suggest that Samsung has the brand clout with consumers to really carry out such an attack against the beloved Apple brand.  People likely laugh at the ads as they might a Saturday Night Live skit, but then wonder half an hour later what brand that was.  And if someone reminded them it was Samsung, you’d likely say “oh ya, Samsung” and then totally dismissed it.

If I were Samsung, I’d keep spending my marketing dollars at the store level trying to switch Apple users in the store or in the search and on-line space where I could highlight the product feature superiority.  As an offensive attack on Apple, Samsung is playing right into Apple’s strength of connectivity. Yes, Samsung do a good job of  using the features of the Galaxy to demonstrate how great their phone is. But the mocking of the Apple fans is the wrong way to go. For a beloved brand like Apple, the consumer loyalty is far past logic.   These Apple consumers have replaced thinking with feeling, so this message will be totally lost on them.   Instead, the Apple fans are still chuckling over the Judge’s ruling that called Samsung “not cool”.

People who aren’t fans of Apple point to the product. (logic only)

But fans of Apple point to the brand.  (pure emotion)

Attacking Apple by making fun of the loyal users…funny ads…but, not so smart.

To see a training presentation on getting better Advertising: 



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 or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

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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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Five Brand Resolutions For 2012

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

As we start 2012, here are some Brand Resolutions.

  1. Take a Walk in Your Consumers Shoes.  See the brand as they do.
  2. At every turn, ask yourself “DO I LOVE IT?”   Reject all work that is “just ok”.
  3. Delegate But Do Not Abdicate Ownership of your Brand.
  4. Create a Culture around your Brand—Brand should be everyone’s job, not just marketing.
  5. Once you create a Beloved Brand, you should run your branded business as a source of Power that helps drive Profit and Value.

#1:  Take a Walk in Your Consumers 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.   In 2012, be the spokesperson who represents the consumer to your team and watch the work get better.

At each stage of a the Brand Love Curve, you should challenge yourself with Amazing programs by asking “do I love this”  Reject all work that is “just ok” and push everyone to make the work better.  

#2:  At every turn, ask yourself “DO I LOVE IT?”    Reject all work that is “just ok”.  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 2012 to lead yourself with passion equal to logic and find a way to love the work you do.

#3:  Delegate But Do Not Abdicate Ownership of your Brand.   In 2012, stop saying a)  “Oh well, the agency is the expert” b) “I never liked the brief” or c) “I never fully agreed with the Decision”.  These feel like a cop out, and it makes you look like a wimp.   Good brand leaders engage in the brand and lead it.   Sometimes it’s delegating to the team to keep them motivatated, but just as many, you have to challenge the direction to ensure the thinking is sound.   In 2012, stop acting like a Manager and start acting like a Brand Owner!

#4:  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 2012, challenge yourself to realize that you need more than just you living the brand, you need everyone living and breathing it.

#5:  Once you create a Beloved Brand, you should run your branded business as a source of Power that helps drive Profit and Value.  You should be looking at your business through the lens of your brand.   Yes, the brand promise sets up how the external community views your brand whether that’s consumers, customers or key influencers.  But equally so, brand becomes a beacon to help guide behaviour, decisions, action, structure and the formation of a culture.  You should drive your growth and profitability through your brand, with a focus on driving share, enhancing price while managing costs and finding new markets.   Most marketers will tell you that branding is about positioning—it’s about being “unique”.  I think positioning is a means to driving growth and making money—it’s about being “powerful”.   The challenge for 2012 is to create a connection with your consumer that can be leveraged as a source of power for you to drive value and profit for your brand.

By driving a deeper emotional connection with your consumers, you can turn that connection into power, which can than be used to drive even further power and value for the brand.  

I really hope you try one of these out in 2012.   And I hope you see the difference.  

Happy New Year!