The 10 laws of forecasting to help brand leaders run their business

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Most brand leaders are not very good at forecasting. brand forecastsThey either over-think or quite frankly, under-think the forecast.  You have to know your Business:  I do believe that writing a Monthly Report is smart practice. It helps keep your finger on the pulse of the business. 

You need to know the underlying key performance indicators, match those up to the in-market realities of customer market orders on the surface and shortly.  Stay close to your sales team to hear the collection of details that will impact your forecast. 

And as the leader of the team, you have to steady the ship and avoid creating your fluctuations. An excellent question I always ask is “So what has changed since last month that makes us change our number?”  You will find that many times, the number has changed, yet not very little on your business has changed. That makes no sense. Why would you change the forecast?  

Avoid the panic or over-reaction. Communicate with supply chain your high/medium/low thinking so they can decide on inventory to avoid missed sales versus excess inventory.  Help them manage the risk. 

Here are the ten laws of forecasting:  

1. Your forecast will always be wrong.  

Knowing your forecast is wrong the second you release it, will focus you on finding midpoints, not on exactness. The only question that matters is “how wrong is your forecast?” Get the forecast accurate enough that it doesn’t hurt the business too much when it is within a reasonable variation.  

2. Correct predictions are not proof that the forecast method is accurate.

It could have been luck. Don’t just look at the results; look at your methodology. An excellent, reliable method produces consistent forecasts, which month after month will be more important than nailing one period.  Process matters.  

3. All trends eventually end.

No matter how accurately the trend is forecasted, at some point in the future, it will be wrong. Consider what might cause a trend to change (seasonality, new competition, saturated market, etc.) when evaluating a forecasted trend.

4. Complicated forecast methodologies can be dangerous.

Simple forecasting methods are easy to explain, understand, analyze and debug. Complicated methods tend to obscure key assumptions built into the forecast, which can lead to unexpected failures.  It’s ok if your supply chain experts use complicated formulas, but balance that with your instincts. Once you let go of your instincts, your forecast will get worse.

5. The underlying data in the forecast are nearly always wrong to some degree. 

Like forecasts being wrong, so too is the data that you are basing it on. You can have better data. But you will never have perfect data. It is just a question of how far off it is. Therefore, the more data in the forecasting process, the more likely some critical error will be missed.

6. Data that has not been regularly used is almost useless for forecasting.  

Data quality is usually directly proportional to the number of times it has been used on your business. Without regular usage, data errors remain undetected, and inconsistencies develop. It’s better to use reliable data in a forecast even if additional assumptions have to be made in order to use it.

7. Most forecasts are biased in some way — usually accidentally.

It is challenging to eliminate all bias in a forecast since the forecaster always has to make certain assumptions about which factors to include, how strongly to weight them, and which to ignore. And sometimes the bias is intentional.

8. Technology will not make up for a bad forecasting strategy.

Create an appropriate strategy first, then use the technology to make it better. Everyone always thinks the technology will help with forecasting, but if you don’t use your brain and think, the better system will just get you a bad forecast faster.  

9. Adding sophisticated technology to a bad model makes it worse.

If the model is bad, anything you add to it — statistical methods, time-series methods, neural networks, etc. — will make your forecast worse. And now, it will be harder to figure out what is going wrong.

10. Large numbers are easier to forecast than small ones.

With forecasting, everything gets easier as the numbers get bigger. A forecast of unit sales where there is an average of 1,000 units sold per month is a lot easier to get right than one where average sales are 2 per month. It is more about the variability than the size itself.


To read how to write a monthly report, click on this link below:

How to write the ideal Monthly Report for your brand.


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

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link:

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link:

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order:

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 Axe ad campaign trying to be the “Dove” brand for young men

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

71hRmSv1NvL._SL1500_The Axe consumer has grown up and now Axe wants to grow up with that consumer. When my son was 13, he started using the Axe brand. One day, I was walking past him and he asked if I wanted a spray.  I said “No, I don’t want to smell like a 13-year-old”. My son is now in University now and uses “The One” by Dolce and Gabana. Even he doesn’t want to smell like a 13-year-old. And now, Axe is showing they no longer want to be the brand for 13-year-olds. They want to grow up.

Axe has released an Ad campaign that feels a bit like Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign. (Axe and Dove are both owned by Unilever) Unilever does a fantastic job in bringing consumer insights into their work. “Masculinity today is going through seismic changes. More than ever, guys are rejecting rigid male stereotypes,” says Matthew McCarthy, senior director of Axe and men’s grooming at Unilever. “We’ve been part of guys’ lives for decades, and Axe champions real guys and the unique traits that make them attractive to the world around them. In recent years, Internet searches by men on hair tips eclipsed female in volume. Men are curious about experimenting and trying different things and are spending more time in front of the mirror. It’s much more acceptable.”

The new Axe message is “you don’t have to be perfect, just be your best self”. The ad shows various iterations of the new modern man from brainiacs to one with a big nose, from protestors to dancing in heels or dancing in a wheel chair. Whoever you are, Axe wants you to feel good about yourself and “Find your magic”. 

The challenge for Axe is that it will take time to transform. They will have to stand by their convictions should sales slip. The Axe brand did such a great job in creating that edgy, hilarious, egomaniac, sexy teenage male positioning, the reputation of Axe is deeply engrained in our minds. Here’s the type of Ad we are normally used to seeing from Axe.

This is a good start for Axe brand. It will take time to transform the brand. My hope is they they don’t give up quickly. 

At Beloved Brands, we lead workshops on Marketing Execution that can help your brand team explore their role as a leader in the process, how to write a strategic brief, how to judge and make decisions on marketing execution and then how to give feedback to the agencies. Here’s the powerpoint file:

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 at416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrandsPositioning 2016.081

Coke’s new Ad campaign has more fizzle than sizzle

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

coke-taste-the-feeling-1I have been impressed with Coke’s Marketing execution the past couple of years. I love the Coke Freestyle machines where you can customize your own drink from up to 100 options. And I have to admit loving the names on the bottle, even though I had my doubts in the beginning. All that great stuff, and yet the sales have been sluggish for the past 15 months. It’s not the activity that is at fault. It’s just that people want healthier options and Coke is now fighting against that major consumer movement away from Sugary or Aspartame drinks. Sugary cereals are going through the same crisis. But since Coke can’t “fix” the health trend, they may as well try to fix the activities–even if it’s not broken. 

With the earnings report showing that Coke’s revenue has fallen for the past 3 straight quarters, I can only imagine the CEO walking down the hall to find the CMO and say “we need your Advertising to sell more product”. 

At Beloved Brands, we believe that Advertising can only move one body part at a time: the head, the feet, the heart or the soul.Creative Brief 2016 Extract.001

Here’s a great example of a Coke ad idea called “Remove labels this Ramadan” that really touches the consumer’s soul. Even with 19 Million views, it likely didn’t sell a lot of Coke.

To me, an Advertising idea is like a magnet. When it gets too far away from the brand, it no longer moves the brand. The “share happiness” campaign was a huge umbrella idea, but likely so huge, the one thing it didn’t do is move product. 

Today, Coke announced two moves in rolling out their new “Taste the Feeling” advertising campaign. First, you will see in the work that they are clearly linking life moments with drinking Coke. Meaning the creative team was told: “we have to SELL MORE PRODUCT”. Or as I would say, the ads have to move feet.  Second, they announced they would have ONE Master Brand creative idea for all 3 Coke products, red Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero.

Here is the main spot Coke launched today, appropriately called Anthem.

I would say it’s an OK spot, not a great spot. For a 90 second spot called “Anthem” it lacks the emotional appeal you would expect, and it won’t really generate any viral share-ability. It has a lot of product shots, but not really the connectivity needed to move product. And I barely even noticed any Diet Coke or Coke Zero. 

To evaluate advertising, we use something we call the ABC’S, which stands for Attention, Branding, Communication and Stickiness. I’d say these score low on attention, moderate on branding, modest on communication and pretty low on stickiness. These type of spots that show a lot of consumer moments to a song usually end up as wallpaper that falls into the background of our multi-tasking lifestyle. There’s no real compelling story here.Marketing Execution 2016.055

Here’s another TV ad called “What is Coke for?”

Again, a bit generic. No emotional pull. Lots of Coke fizzle. And hard to find the Diet Coke or Coke Zero. 

The print does a better job in capturing emotion than the TV, showing how Coke fits in to various moments of your life. 




Here’s a challenge to Coke, if you are going to name your new spot “Anthem”. make sure it is as epic as this 1971 TV ad: 

Do you think this new campaign will increase Coke’s revenue?

Here’s a workshop we run on how to get better Marketing Execution. In this workshop, we go through how to come up with an Executional brief, based on both positioning and strategy, we take you through how to judge the work and how to provide motivating feedback to your agencies.

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

BBI ads for 2015.011We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911Positioning 2016.081

The consumer has changed dramatically. Have you changed enough?

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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Marketing has changed dramatically and if you are not changing with it, then you will not be able to unleash the full potential of your brand nor will you be able to unleash your own full potential as a Brand Leader. When I say that Marketing has changed, people think I am about to talk about the change in media options over the last 15 year, with the opening up of digital, social and search. Sure, that has changed the way we do things, but is really at the surface level. Starting at the turn of this century, we began witnessing a deeper underlying change happening with consumers, who have begun rewarding those brands who exceed their expectations, who have gravitated towards brands that treat them as though they are special, and who have become loyal to brands that open up and establish a higher purpose worthy of connecting with.

Consumers ended the last century tired of the crap that brands kept promising, jaded by the tricks brands used to get them to buy, leaving them feeling burned by over-promise and under-delivery. Consumers now want and expect more. Consumers want to be appreciated and they are willing to love the brand that will treat them like they are the only person that matters. Everything a brand does, should start and end with the consumer in mind. Brands are shifting from fighting for a space in the mind of the consumer to fighting for a place in the consumers heart. It is about becoming one of the favorite parts of the consumers’ day, not just pure product performance. The change in media is merely an enabler to the underlying change, but not a driver. The best brands of today are loved.The media options have had a dramatic influence on the consumers lifestyle–the number of messages, multi-tasking and being tired of being burned. The change in the consumer should drive your Media Planning more than the change in media

  1. Consumers see more brand messages than their brains can handle. 
    • In the year 2015, consumers see up to 7,000 brand messages every day. The fastest thing our brains now do is reject advertising messages. The digital ads on every website you visit, at the top, on the side, on the bottom, drop down boxes. Whenever you turn on Facebook, every google search you make. Take the subway and see hundreds or drive to work and see the same. We now surf messages quickly and only engage in a few each day. Life was much simpler in the last century when consumers saw a few billboards on the way home from work, had dinner and watched Seinfeld on TV seeing a few ads each night. But, in the current world, your consumer is being bombarded by brands. Are you doing anything to change the way you approach consumers to ensure you are gaining their attention?
  2. Consumers are constantly multi-tasking—driving, walking, talking.
    • Even with 7,000 messages a day, consumers are barely watching. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) means people are constantly multi-tasking. I rarely watch a TV show without my laptop or phone nearby. Most people sleep beside their phone and read updates as soon as they awake. Even with laws against texting and driving, I see it every day. And walk downtown in a straight line and you are bound to walk into someone “walking and texting”. Once you gain the consumers attention, you have to find a way to engage them to stay with your brand. What are you doing to hold the attention of your consumer to avoid them being distracted away?
  3. Consumers are tired of being burned by faulty brand promises.
    • Consumer marketing is a little over 100 years now and hopefully consumers have become much more sophisticated in their decision-making. Last century, we saw too many brands over-promise and under-deliver. But brand reputations are now being made and equally dying based on the consumers ability to do their homework. They do their own research, they can ask friends or read on-line reviews. If they are burned by a brand, they quickly spread the message. Have you figured out a brand promise that you can deliver beyond the purchase moment? Have you created an experience that will get purchasers to become brand fans?
  4. Consumers now take control and action over the buying process.
    • Consumers now control what they buy. They are not sold to. Last century it was all about selling. In the current world, it’s all about buying. They are taking full control over the buying process–gaining awareness about brands from friends, only considering after doing their own research to validate what they are hearing and then they figure out the ideal pathway to the purchase moment. They read labels, read reviews and make up their own minds. They pose questions to friends for advice. Putting 100% of your budget on a 30 second TV no longer works. Have you figured out how to co-manage the path to the purchase moment along side the consumer to help them consider, search, purchase and experience your brand?
  5. Consumers connect with brands they believe in.
    • Consumers now want and expect more. They line up to brands that line up to their values and expectations. Consumers want to be appreciated and they are willing to love the brand that will treat them like they are the only person that matters. Ethics and behavior now matter. We are seeing the ethics of brands like Volkswagen and GM destroying the brand reputation. We are seeing Chipotle facing small regional safety crisis points, with the news spreading like wild-fire and the brand is dying before our eyes. Consumers have full access to information and they are not just buying what you do, but why you do it. The most loved brands are based on a big idea that consumers connect with, yet that idea has to reflect the brand’s soul. Have you figured out your brand purpose and then figured out how to build your stated brand purpose into your brand story, your product innovation and the brand experience? Have you figured out how to make the brand purpose be part of the purchase moment as a deal closer to a tie between two brands?
  6. Consumers reward amazing experiences over products alone.
    • Last century, consumers just bought products like Tide, Kodak and Pampers. Most of them we learned about on quick 30 second TV ads that followed a similar formula screaming “we are the best”, shown every half hour trying to drive awareness. But consumers are connecting at a deeper level with brands that offer an experience that over-delivers the promise. With Starbucks, it’s more about the “moments” than it is about the “coffee”. Everyone keeps pointing to the fact Starbucks coffee finishes middle of the pack in blind taste tests. But you cannot replicate the experience of nice leather chairs, cool music, great conversations, amazing culture of people. We are starting to see that the new product is becoming the experience, and while claims supported the product, it is the organization’s culture that supports the experience. Have you figured out to create an experience around your brand that brings it life beyond the product itself? 
  7. Consumers explore rationally, but stay emotionally.
    • In this 21st century economy, the winning brands are those who can create strong emotional bonds with their consumers. While brands might gain entry into the consumers mind in the first 7 seconds, consumers are now emotionally engaging with brands. Research companies like Hotspex show that over 50% of brand decisions are emotionally based. To achieve Brand Love,  brand needs a Big Idea that expresses your brand’s soul and serves to connect with consumers while shaping the internal culture of the brand. Brands need Focus in the choices a brand makes in terms of vision, strategy, positioning and execution. And brands need to show Passion in everything to drive creativity that connects with consumers and precision that helps create brand experiences that exceed expectations. The best brands build every touchpoint around the Big Idea including the promise, brand story, innovative products, ubiquitous purchase moments and brand experiences. How will you use Big Ideas, focus and passion to really create a bond with your consumers to turn them into brand fans that love your brand?

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What is it that creates a bond between the consumer and the brand? You need to be able to describe your brand to CONSUMERS in 7 seconds, 60 seconds, 30 minutes and over the lifetime of the brand, always telling the same story. 

  • In today’s crowded branded marketplace, the modern consumers see 7,000 brand messages a day. The fastest thing our brains do is reject brand messages. Brands need an entry point to gain permission to the consumer’s brain. Can you explain your brand in 7 seconds?
  • After decades of being burned by false promises, modern consumers are naturally cynical and constantly doubting brands. They test the brand by asking detailed questions. Brands need a solid story that closes off any doubts consumers may have. Can you explain your brand in 60 seconds?
  • Modern consumers like to take control over their buying process as they move from consideration to search and finally to a purchase moment. Brands need to move with consumers through to the purchase moment. Can you explain your brand in 30 minutes?
  • As the modern consumer experiences the brand, they either accept or reject the promise. Consumers are more loyal to brands they share a common purpose and shared values. Brands need to create experiences that match the brand story. Can you describe your brand over the lifetime of the brand, always telling the same story?

What are you doing to deal with the changing consumer?  

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Below is our Beloved Brands Workshop we run on Strategic Thinking:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911

BBI Creds Deck 2016.014

Do your own damn performance review!!!

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

This time of year is when you sit down with your boss and have the dreaded annual performance review. 

It’s likely dreaded for a reason. You hate getting feedback and your boss hates giving feedback. These days performance reviews feel like a bit of jockeying. When you do you self-evaluation, you avoid putting anything that can be used against you. And when your boss does your evaluation, they will avoid putting anything that will imply a promotion, raise or even maintaining your employment. Maybe it’s time that we think of the performance review as a necessity of the job, but we should stop thinking this is big defining career moment that will help you. If you have a great boss, use it to your advantage. Some of my bosses took it seriously, many did not. In my 20 years of working, half of my performance reviews were worthwhile, and considering I had one manager for 7 years who did an excellent job for me, that leaves 13 other years where the reviews did very little for me. I recommend you take control of your own career and never be at the mercy of others.

If you are managing your career, then give yourself a Performance Review

We look at Marketing Careers over 4 different levels: Assistant Brand Manager (ABM), Brand Manager (BM), Marketing Director and VP Marketing. Companies may use various titles, but the ABM is generally a do-er or contributor to strategy, while the BM is the owner of the plan and the go-to person on the brand. Usually the Director manages a broader team and the VP oversees the entire marketing team. 

We have mapped out at the 32 essential skills that a Brand Leader needs, at every level. What I have found is that marketing is about learning the fundamentals and then use your experience to continuously improve. As much as your company self-assessment is guarded and careful, when you do your own, you have to be very honest with yourself to identify what you need to work on.

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When it comes to Analytics you should be mastering this as an Assistant Brand Manager and Brand Manager, but you have to continue to use these skills throughout your career. While digging into every aspect of the business helps you learn the basic analytics, what separates great marketers on analytics are those who can transform all those numbers into an analytical story that helps set up a decision point.

Brand Planning is usually owned by the Brand Manager. But honestly it can take a few years to become competent at writing plans. If not done well, planning can get out of control. The goal of a brand plan is to get everyone on the same page, to ensure everyone is moving in the direction that is outlined in the brand plan. There are so many elements of a plan you need to get comfortable with, from creating a brand vision that motivates everyone, to purpose and values and onto strategy and tactics. To ensure action comes out of the plan, the Brand Leader should be creating specific project plans for each element of the plan.

While positioning is one of the core strategic functions of marketing, it is rare for a marketer to be involved in positioning their brand. Most are taking the positioning from the previous marketer. Positioning is really about simplifying everything on the brand, down to something that is focused and digestible for consumers. A good positioning has a focused target market, one main benefit and two reasons to believe. From that positioning, you can create a Brand Concept or even move forward to writing a Creative Brief that can help execution. Too many brand leaders lack the ability to write a brief and it’s impacting marketing execution.

Any type of advertising requires brand leaders to use judgement and make decisions. The decisions should be balanced with strategic thinking and gut feel for the creative choices and media options. While we all have natural instincts even before we get into marketing, being able to articulate those over a complex network of advertising experts and over a long project timeline are very difficult. Practice these skills early in your career on smaller projects and perfect them as you move to more complex and bigger projects. With a large advertising project, the brand leader has to work through the ad agency that would include 3 distinct groups–account team, creative team and strategic planner. Then moving towards production, you need to oversee a series of subject matter experts including producers, directors, sound technicians and actors. You have to stay true to your vision at every stage of the project. I have found that with each new project right up to the VP level, you should be continuously looking to improve. How you make decisions, how you motivate others and how you communicate will either make or break the advertising projects you are leading.

New products can vary in their degree of complexity. The simplest ones are incremental launches using the same brand name, and using the same production and distribution channels. The more complex type new products involve a new brand name, a new technology, new distribution channels, new production, government regulation, determining the projected sales, costs and support needed.

One big growing weakness is the go-to-market execution that involves the marketing and sales teams to work together. Over 20 years ago, it was very common that marketers did a stint or two in the sales department. As the roles have become more senior and specialized, it has become more difficult to move people between the roles. This has created silos between Sales and Marketing, leaving the marketer with a perception that they live in an “ivory tower”. There is a skill in learning how to influence the sales team, ensuring that your marketing and sales are working together to make the brand stronger. At any stage, you should be constantly getting into the stores and meeting with sales people. As you get more senior, you should learn how to present to buyers.

In terms of Leadership and Managing you need to hold your team to a consistently high standard of work in strategic thinking and planning. Then you need to hold your team to a consistently high standard of work in execution in the market. In terms of people management, you need to be seen as actively interested in helping your team to manage their careers. Teach, guide and direct your team members for higher performance. Training and development provides on-going skills development to make the team better.

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We have also mapped out 15 leader behaviors for you to also use as a self-evaluation, looking at the behaviors that separate great Brand Leaders from the pack. A great Brand Leader is accountable to results, strong on people leadership, a solid strategic thinker, carries broad influence and brings an authentic style. Leadership behaviors are harder for us to self-evaluate. I would recommend you have casual conversations with those you can trust to give you feedback. There is a term called “blind spots”, where people who you work with know that you have a weak, but you don’t know.

Identify your own gaps

We recommend that you go through each of the dimensions and give yourself a score in relation to your peers. A score of 5 means you are one of the best in your department in a given area, a 4 is above average, 3 means you are average and the scores of 1’s and 2’s would mean you have a gap. Force the scores so that you can clearly identify 3 skills and 3 leader behaviors as being a relative gap to your peers. Based on where you are with your career, I recommend you end up using the year to close Then as you build your own personal plan for the year, map out a plan of attack for the coming year. 

2015 brand careers.019Don’t worry, we all have gaps. At every level of my own career, I had some major gaps. Many I wasn’t even aware of and some I was even in denial. Only as I moved up to Director and VP level was I able to close some of the gaps. For example, I struggled throughout my career when dealing with the sales team, was never a great negotiator and always weak when it came to managing up. Maybe if I had one more self-evaluations along the way, I could have closed the gaps sooner.

We all have gaps. What are going to do about closing your gaps?

Below is a Powerpoint presentation of a workshop we run on Managing your Brand Career. I hope that it challenges you to think differently and identify some areas you can improve for next year.

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911

BBI Creds Deck 2016.014

How to win the Marketing War Games

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Positioning 2016.013

You have to find a unique selling proposition for your brand, that distinguishes you from others. Looking above at the Venn diagram, we first start by listing out everything your consumers want, then list what your brand does best and what your competitors do best. The winning zone for your brand to play in is the match up where consumers want what you do best. The losing zone is to play where consumers want it, but your competitor does it better than you. Competitive Positioning Options.001As we are maturing in the marketing, it is harder and harder to come up with a definitive win, so that is where you can win the risky zone by being different, being faster to market, winning with meaningful innovation or building a deep emotional connection. The key to be seen as unique, not just for the sake of it, but to match up what you do best with what the consumer is looking for. Sadly, I do have to always mention the dumb zone. This is where two competitors “battle it out” in the zone the consumer does not care about. I say sadly, because I keep seeing this in the market. One competitor starts saying “we are faster” and you see them so you think “well we are just as fast”. No one bothers to ask the consumer if they care about speed. Too often, Brand Leaders start with the claim, and then try to make the most of it in everything they do. The problem with that strategy is your claim might not be a benefit,  and even if it ladders up, it might not be something that is own-able for you or motivating to the consumer.

When you position your brand you want to focus on the area where you are better than your competitor and then use communication, innovation and experience to extrapolate that benefit’s importance, while then diminishing what your competitor does best.

Competitive Brands

Where you rank and what role you play within your category is a great indicator of how much power you can command in the market. In terms of Marketing War Games, we have mapped out 4 types of competitive brands: the Power Player, the Challenger, the Island brand, the Rebel Brand. If you do not fit into one of those four, by default you become the Battler Brand where you are in a constant dog-fight in, stuck in the middle of the pack, unable to command any point of difference.

The Power Player leads the way: This is reserved for the leader of the category. These brands have a power over the category and over competitors. They can defend their territory by attacking itself or even attacking back at an aggressive competitor. The Power Player is usually the market share leader but it can also be the perceived leader in the consumers’ mind. For instance, Apple is the perceived leader of the cell-phone market, even though Samsung has a significantly higher market share. The best strategy is actually to ‘attack yourself’ by identifying and close leaks in service, experience or products before others can take advantage of those leaks. Challenge the culture to step it up to  continually get better and stay ahead of the competitors. Competitive Positioning Options.002Always be launching innovation that is better than your current product. Never become complacent or you will die. Keep an eye on your competitor’s moves—and adjust your own brand to ensure you defend against their attacks. Power Players always block all offensive moves and attacks back with an even greater force than the one attacking you. You always need to demonstrate your brand power—whether that is with competitors, retailers, media or even the very consumers who love you.

Power Players own what they are best at, and manage to achieve perceived parity with competitors on their weakness to avoid opening up a new competitive advantage for anyone in the market to attack them. Where there is a tie winners of these brands win on innovation, emotional, speed or taking the product and turning it into an experience.

A great case study of a Power Brand leader facing the attack from a challenger brand, McDonald’s was able to hold their own under attack by Subway’s weight loss claims and the movie “Super Size Me”. They launched a full array of salads & sandwiches, changed their happy meal to appeal to healthy moms, and voluntarily put calorie counts on their menu. For the next 5 years after “Super Size Me” McDonalds saw double-digit growth when everyone thought it was in trouble. On the other hand, Blackberry is a great case study of a brand that forgot to defend their Castle. In 2009, Blackberry dominated the B2B executive market. But they wanted to be more like Apple than like themselves. They launched a bad touch screen phone, an undifferentiated tablet, sponsored rock concerts and launched BBI for teenie-boppers. They never attacked themselves by improving the flaws of their current product or defended their strength with corporations. Pretty soon, executives were switching to the iPhone and Blackberry was headed for a quick fall to near obscurity.   

The Challenger Brand tries to change the playing field: Challenger’s attack on the leader to exploit a weakness or build on your own strength. The best offensive attack is to actually find weakness within the leader’s strengths. Competitive Positioning Options.003One very powerful strategy is to turn a perceived strength of the leader around by making it a weakness. Attacking a weakness might be insufficient, because consumers already know it is a weakness. Be careful of the leader’s defensive moves, by anticipating a response with full force—possibly even greater than yours.  Avoid wars that drain your limited resources and end up with the same share after the war. Following Napoleonic rules, you need to attack on as narrow of a front as possible to ensure your resources are put to that area—which might be more of a force than the leader puts to that one area. When a leader is trying to be everything, those narrow attacks are effective—enabling you to slice off a part of their business before they can defend it. Where there can be product differences, invest in R&D to achieve a leapfrog strategy where technology and business models become game-changers in the category.

The best example of a Challenger Brand attacking the leader came from the Pepsi Challenge which was a direct offensive attack on Coke.  Without the strength of the Coke brand name and all that went with it, people picked Pepsi in blind taste tests, preferring the sweeter taste. Supported by “the taste of a new generation” Pepsi was able to change the playing field away from Coke’s strength of tradition and heritage over to Pepsi’s taste and youth.   

The Island Brand goes into the unknown areas: An attack in an open area where the Leader is not that well established. Island Brands go to uncontested areas, in the safety where the leader is not competing. Make sure you are the first in this area. Speed and surprise can help win the uncontested area before the Leaders take notice. Make your move quickly and stealth fully. Follow through matters, to defend the area you’ve won. Be careful that your success on this island may invite others to follow whether it is the leader trying to use their might or copycats looking for an early win. Then you become the Power Player of your island  and must defend your territory with full power you have. Island Brands normally win with new targets, price points (premium or value), distribution channels, format or positioning. In the modern world, we are seeing many brands using completely new technologies such as Netflix or Uber to completely change the playing field. The biggest issue for Island Brands is the increased risk that your concept might not work. These are different concepts in a different space, and that brings a higher risk.

Special K Challenge is an amazing example of an Island Brand. As most cereal was targeting families, facing complaints of high sugar and calories, Special K established itself as a lower calorie and weight loss option. Around 2000, Special K made a dramatic turn in the market. With all the diet-crazed consumers looking for new solutions, Special K had a stroke of brilliance when someone figured out that if you ate Special K twice a day for just two weeks, you could lose up to 6 pounds in 2 weeks. While all the other diet options felt daunting, this felt pretty easy to do. At that time, the big idea for Special K was “Empowering Women to take control of their weight”. Special K’s innovation rivaled that of Apple. It started with the launch of Berry Special K that thrust the brand into a good tasting cereal, and has since added bars, shakes and water. Most recently, they’ve now launched potato chips (only 80 calories for 20 chips) and a Breakfast Sandwich option.  it just goes to show you that it’s not about ‘out of the box’ ideas, but rather how you define the box.  All these product launches are aligned to the idea of empowering women to maintain their weight. The diversified line up beyond cereal helps off-set any sales softness on cereal.

The Rebel Brand goes against the category: Going into an area where it’s too small for the Leaders to take notice or are unable to attack back. Pick a segment small enough that it won’t be noticed and you’ll be able to defend it. Competitive Positioning Options.005Be aggressive. Put all your resources against this small area, so that you’ll have the relative force of a major  player. Be flexible and nimble. You will need to enter quickly to seize an opportunity that others aren’t noticing, but also be ready to exit if need be—whether the consumers change their minds or competitors see an opportunity to enter. Explore non-traditional marketing techniques to get your brand message out and your brand into the market quickly. Because you’re playing in a non-traditional market, you’ll be given leeway on the tools you use. For Rebel brands, it is better to be loved by the few, than liked or tolerated by the many. They are at their best when no one even notices or cares.

The Rebel Brands that comes to mind is 5 Guys Burgers. They have avoided taking on the big fast food chains directly, preferring to go into the high quality, fresh ingredients at a super premium price ($8-10 for a burger). They do not worry about calories or salads or even chicken. They are sticking to what they are good at: highest quality burgers. 5 Guys is taking their niche into a high growth situation, with 1000+ locations. The consumers are passionate about the high quality burger. They are stealing the top end of share from McDonald’s but are doing so by owning their niche. While they face other high quality burger joints like In-N-Out or Shake Shack, they are clearly following the McDonald’s real estate strategy by trying to be everywhere.

Dollar Shave has also done a great job as a rebel brand. Dollar Shave Club is a subscription based razor company, founded in 2011 by Mark Levine and Michael Dubin based on the idea that consumers are highly frustrated with the growing cost of razor blades. This is a classic case of finding a major un-addressed problem that consumers are facing in the market, and use a creative brand solution that helps to turn that problem into a consumer enemy that upsets them emotionally. We are seeing many brands use new technology options to set up the old guard as the enemy ready for attack. And this is the strategy for Dollar Shave on Gillette. With the cost of a pack of razors going for $20 at your average drug store or even $40 at Costco, there was a huge opportunity in the marketplace. Yes, we’ve seen huge technology gains in the last 20 years with way more blades than we ever though possible, flex balls and blue lines telling us when to throw it out. But for a great many of us, price still matters. At first Dollar Shave was so small ($25 Million in sales) that Gillette could not be bothered to defend. You can imagine that as Dollar Shave started out, they were up going against one of the biggest consumer goliath brands in the world. Gillette’s global sales are in the billions. For Dollar Shave, first year sales were about $30-50 million, while they likely generated a lot of noise at P&G, that sales level should not even be enough to make Gillette lose an ounce of sleep.

Competitive Positioning Options.006If you are stuck as a Cluttered Brand: Most brands are stuck in a dog-fight in a crowded category where they struggle to find any competitive points of differences they  can take advantage of. These brands battle it out using traditional tools such as distribution, price and promotion to try to win, only to discover that without a Big Idea it is just a constant drain on their resources. These Cluttered Brands act like a commodity, trying to out-effort or out-last their competitors. However, if the brand is a commodity, there will be no loyalty, no price premium and no growth. That means no funds coming back to invest back into the brand. These brands need to find an idea that is unique, own-able and motivating to consumers. The only way to get out of this vicious spiral is to become a Rebel Brand and build around a smaller motivated target by something you can build around or find a game-changing option to become an Island Brand.

Lessons for Marketing War Games

When engaged in marketing war games, here are things you need to do to win:

  • You have to realize that speed of attack matters. Surprise attacks, but sustained speed in the market is a competitive advantage.
  • Be organized and efficient in your management.  To operate at a higher degree of speed, ensure that surprise attacks work without flaw, be mobile enough.
  • Focus all your resources to appear bigger and stronger than you are. Focus on the target most likely to quickly act, focus on the messaging most likely to motivate and focus on areas you can win.
  • Drawn out dogfights slow down brand growth. Never fight two wars at once.
  • Use early wins to keep momentum going and gain quick positional power you can maintain and defend counter-attacks.
  • Execution matters. Quick breakthrough requires creativity in your approach and quality in execution. Expect the unexpected.
  • Think it through thoroughly. Map out potential responses by competitors. 

What is your competitive position for your brand and are your strategies lined up to your role?

At Beloved Brands, we run a brand strategy workshop to help brand leaders at  your company think differently, looking at consumer strategy, competitive strategy and situational strategy.

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911.

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Stop telling consumers what you do and start telling them what they get and how it will make them feel

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Turning features into benefits

The consumer will not care about what you do, until you start to care about what they get.  Many brands get stuck at the Indifferent or Like It stage because they talk non-stop about themselves, almost like the consumer does not even matter. It should be one of the most obvious elements in marketing, but it seems lost on many. If we look to the previous century, we see many of the Consumer Packaged Goods brands of the 1970’s and 1980’s screaming their features over and over. Tide gets rid of grass stains, Dove is ph-balanced and Pampers has stay-dry lining. It was all about finding a space in the consumers mind, a wee little space and then extrapolating that one thing to give the perception that you are the best brand. Competitors were able catch up and duplicate the performance of these features, negating any competitive advantage. Even store brands easily duplicated these features and grabbed 10 to 20% of market share. What did the marketers do? They kept finding smaller and smaller incremental features to scream, while trying to hold onto share. As the consumers evolved to wanting more from brands, these brand leaders were stuck talking features. Let’s put this in human terms: if you were on a date, would you be more successful telling your date what a great job you have, what an amazing volleyball player you are and every amazing thing  you did since College. Or should you ask about them: What is it that made you become a lawyer? What is your favorite part of the job? When you do well, how does that make you feel?  Like in dating, stop telling about yourself all the time. Show interest in your consumer as you would a dating prospect.benefits.001

The tool we use is a Customer Value Proposition Ladder that helps move you from shouting your features and to start talking about benefits, both rational and emotional. It is a four step process that starts with the consumer, defining the target, outlining any need states or pain points and then helping paint the picture of the consumer with consumer insights and potential enemies that torment them.

We then list out the product features, listing out your top strengths, claimed and any unique points of difference that can separate your brand. We try to get in the shoes of the consumer and using their voice, we ask “So what do I get?” This sets up the rational benefit. And finally, still in the voice of the consumer, we look at the rational benefits and ask “So how does that make me feel?” This tool forces you to change your focus of your brand where you are shouting at consumers to a new perspective where you as the consumer are asking the brand what you get and how you feel.All Beloved Pics.098

Using a fictional brand of Gray’s Cookies, use the brainstorming to complete a Customer Value Proposition Ladder  Worksheet, with an example below:

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Some CVPs can end up very cluttered, but the more focused you can make it the easier it will be for you to choose which one you will stand behind, and which one benefit you’ll communicate. At the brainstorm stage, we try to limit the numbers of 3 or 4 of the best of each whether that’s enemies, insights, features, rational benefits or emotional benefits. If you are uncertain, you might choose to do some qualitative research with some type of benefit or claims sort to hear which ones are the most own-able and motivating.

People tend to get stuck when trying to figure out the emotional benefits.  I swear every brand creative out there says: trusted, reliable, self-confident and yet like-able. It seems that not only do consumers have a hard time expressing their emotions about a brand, but so do Brand Managers. Companies like Hotspex have mapped out all the emotional zones for consumers. I’m not a researcher, but if you’re interested in this methodology contact Hotspex at  

We leverage this type of research and would encourage you to build your story around the emotions that best fit your consumer needs. Leveraging Hotspex, I have mapped out 8 zones in a simplistic way below we call our Emotional Cheat Sheet:

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Within each of the eight emotional zones, you can find emotional words that closely align to the need state of the consumer and begin building the emotional benefits within your Customer Value Proposition. The challenge here, like any in marketing, is to narrow down your focus to owning one potential zone, not all of the zones. While it is tempting to want to be noticed, in control and knowledgable, those are 3 distinct emotional zones and if you try to build a reputation by telling consumers you own every emotion, they will either be confused by who you are or in disbelief that you are any of who you claim you are. Neither of those lead to building a brand reputation.

Once you decide on which benefit you will stand behind, you can begin to move forward with a classic positioning statement that includes four key elements: 

                • Target Market (a)
                • Definition of the market you play in (b)
                • Brand Promise (emotional or rational benefit) (c)
                • The Reason to Believe (RTB) the brand promise (d)

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Get in the shoes of your consumer and use their voice to speak to your brand about what they want.

Below is a presentation from our workshop on How to find a winning brand positoning statement.

Here is a related story on how to find the target market: Target Market

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911

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Stop targeting everyone and focus on those most motivated by what you offer

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

I am so worn out by marketers thinking that their target market is everyone. If you were supposed to target everyone, the brilliant marketing minds would never have come up with the term “target market”. And stop telling me you are “afraid to alienate current customers”. Unless you are making offensive advertising, which I do not recommend, then you won’t alienate anyone. If people see you going after a new type of consumer, here is the worst thing they will ever say: “wow, it looks like my favorite brand is doing so well that they are now looking for new customers.” 

Just stop it.

Who is the consumer target?

Brand Leaders always think about who they want, but rarely ask the better question: “who wants them?” target market.001As you are starting to think about the target, keep asking “who is the most motivated to buy what you do?”  Next time you are walking through the airport, and you pass the shoe-shine guy, watch how they decide whether you are a customer or not. They look at your feet and if you have leather shoes on, they will ask if you want a shine. If you have runners on, they will let you walk right past. If they understand that the best customer is someone already motivated by what they do, how come marketers struggle with this question. Marketers are obsessed with size of the target because they assume the bigger the target the bigger the brand. Our whole argument of Brand Love would suggest that it is better to be loved by a few rather than merely tolerated by everyone. If you have a target that will one day love you, that is an asset you should seek out, because they will crave your brand, recommend your brand to their friends and they will defend your brand to no end. 

Defining the Marketing target versus the Selling target

Obviously, it makes sense to sell to everyone and anyone who comes in the door. However, you should not apply your limited resources of money, time, people against the entire population because it is cost prohibitive. While targeting everyone “just in case” might safe at first, it is actually higher risk because you never get to see the full impact of your effort. And then you never know if your program worked. Instead of figuring out who you want, focus on who wants you! Pick the target that is most motivated by what you do.

All Beloved Pics.096The example I use in my speeches involves a fictional golf ball that goes 50 yards farther than any golf ball in the world. Trust me, I wish this ball existed. I will ask who the target should be, and  shockingly, the answers are all over the place. Rarely does anyone say “those who really love golf and want to hit the ball longer”. Is that too simple of an answer for you? Marketers are always tempted by the size of the market, and for this example they think “this is our chance to get non-golfers interested in golf”. Increasing market size after all is the holy grail that will turn golf haters into golfer lovers. They forget to ask golfer haters why they hate golf, because if they did they would find out they hate the clothes, find it boring and embarrassing and that it takes half day of their life. Hitting the ball longer does not help any of those pain points. In my mind, the best initial target market would be the 5 best golfers at every golf club. These golfers already hit it 280 yards would love to hit it 330 yards. They would certainly pay a price premium to be first and get that competitive advantage. They would likely carry more influence in spreading the word to the rest of the golfers of the club. So yes, we would sell to anyone, but we would market to those most motivated by what we have to offer. The best marketing target market would be “the best golfers at every club” which is likely 0.001% of the general population. Now that’s a focused marketing target market that would be easy to find, highly self-motivated and an easy sale. That is the starting point to a very efficient marketing campaign.

I once worked with a bank who told me that their target market for their latest ad campaign for first time home loans (mortgages) was 18-65, new customers, current customers and employees. I laughed and said “you have forgotten tourists and prisoners”. True story. This is a classic case of a selling target that includes everyone. We will sell to everyone and we are afraid of narrowing our target. Yes, the odd 18-year-old might be wanting to buy a house, and there might be a few 64 year olds that have been renting for 40 years and tired of their landlord. But neither would be offended if there is a 27-year-old or a 32-year-old in the ad. The bank clearly needs a marketing target. The first rule is to find those most motivated by what you do. You have to matter to those who actually care the most. The only people who care about your home loan message are those that are close to buying a house. It is obvious that the house comes before the loan. And equally obvious that a house is certainly not an impulse purchase. If it is this obvious, then why didn’t the bank know it was obvious. The shoe shine guy gets the idea of a motivated target, yet the bank does not. The first narrowing of the target would be “27 to 32 and those looking to buy a house in the next six months”. With a tighter target like that, imagine how this limits where you will spend your limited resources. Where are they? Every weekend they are out house-hunting and every night and lunch hour, they are on-line looking at potential houses. That makes for a very targeted media plan with on-line banners for real estate listings and out of home signage near new home developments. What is their motivation?  Well, they are scared because it is their first time and they are risk averse because it is a lot of money for them. They are fixated on the house and not even thinking about the home loan. What would move them? Due to their fear and unknown, they would want a comforting experience with someone who will guide them through the process. It is one of those first “grown up” big moments and they want to be successful. The role of the bank should be that of an enabler, providing support and advice through experts and content focused on helping people buy their first home. We can see ideas for the brand, just by narrowing the target from a general population selling target to those clear first time buyers who need help and advice, in a very comforting supportive way.

As you figure out who you are serving and who you are not serving helps provide focus.  In terms of choosing target segments, you can break it out on the following:

              • Demographics
              • Behavioral or Psychographic
              • Geographic
              • Usage occasion

The most beloved brands know who their customer is and who it is not in their target. This is one of the first decisions you will make on focus because spreading your limited resources across an entire population is cost prohibitive–and will always generate a low return on investment and low return on effort. While targeting everyone “just in case” might feel safe at first, it is actually less safe to have a broad target market because you never get to see the full impact. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focusing all your attention on those that can love you. It becomes all about choices and you will be much more effective at convincing a segment of the population to choose your brand because of the assets and promise that you have that match up perfectly to what they want.

A pet peeve of mine are those brands who conduct highly elaborate and expensive market research to determine market segments. I love segmentation, but I hate how it is used. The whole role of segmentation is to figure who is your target and who is not. However, marketers are using segmentation as their game plan for targeting everyone. And they put a game plan to each segment. For segment A, here is how we show up and for segment B, we have to show up completely different and for segment C, we will be value priced and for segment D, we will charge a premium to join our club because we know they love clubs. This is craziness. Not only are you spending your limited dollars across the entire population, you are now taking your limited people resource and getting them to alter how you show up to various segments of the market. On top of that craziness, if we believe that positioning is about managing your reputation, then how on earth will you manage six reputations at once. Plus, consumers better not compare notes on how they see your brand. Pure craziness.

Just stop it.

Focus your limited resources on those consumers that are the most motivated by what your brand does.

Here’s a presentation from our workshop on how to write a brand positioning statement

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911

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The marketing world has changed, and brand leaders need to change with it

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

When we say Marketing has changed, the first answer people gravitate to is the change in media options over the last 15 years, with the opening up of digital, social and search. That change is at the surface level, but it is not really enough of a reason to warrant the change we are seeing. 

In the previous century, it was product driven brands like Tide, Kodak, Xerox, Microsoft and Ivory soap that always stressed product superiority with repetitive mass media strategies behind 30 second TV ads that used side-by-side demos and robotic rules like saying the brand name in the first 7 seconds and the see-say product shots over the last 5 seconds. But now we see the most modern brands like Starbucks, Whole Foods, Facebook, Tesla, Uber and Netflix driving success with the modern consumer in a completely modern fashion. While each of these brands has a clearly defined brand big idea, there is no real memorable advertising, no tag line we can recite and yet consumers are tightly connected and outspoken fans of each brand. Do you even remember the first time you heard of these brands? How? All I know, is that I’m sure you remember your last experience. 

These modern brands combine big ideas backed by amazing experiences to create a feeling. They find new ways to tell their brand story that spreads like wildfire and they focus more on being different than being better. The organizational culture of these modern brands has become the foundation of their story, their brand purpose and expressed values have become the substitute for brand claims and product demos. The brand story isn’t done through a traditional media blocking chart. Instead of yelling your message over and over to every consumer in the marketplace hoping some buy you, the most modern brands whisper to their most loyal fans, hoping those brand fans whisper with an underlying influence to all their friends and families. 

Old school brands fought for a space in the consumers mind

The best brands of the last century were based on product inventions that solved small problems consumers didn’t even realize they had until the product came along. Old school Marketing was dominated by TV ads, logos, product superiority claims, coupons and a battle for shelf space at retail stores. Products were developed by scientists in a lab, pushed to the market, shouting “we are the best” to anyone who would listen. It was about awareness, brand recall, persuasion and trial, driving volume up to push costs down and drive competitors out of the market. The old school brands fought for a space in the consumers mind, with a motivation to win over a broad target. These brands are liked by everyone, but not really loved, and many are struggling in the new economy.

Modern brands fight for a place the consumers heart

In the new economy of the 21st century, Brand Love is the currency, with marketing shifting to building big ideas, leveraging purpose-driven story telling, creating experiences, managing ubiquitous purchase moments and steering the brand’s reputation. The best brands of the new economy are based on a big idea that consumers connect with. The idea has to reflect the brand’s soul, with a clear purpose and set of values to create an organizational culture of people who live the brand and who will deliver an amazing brand experience that exceeds any expectations. These brands are seen as consumer brands because they were developed through observation of consumers, with innovation that beats down an identified consumer enemy that torments them every day. The growth comes from finding those consumers already motivated by what the brand does. Consumers are made to feel part of brand, they desire it, crave it and are outspoken fans of it. Instead of shouting at consumers, the modern brands confidently whisper to their most loyal fans, who then whisper with trusted influence to bring their friends to the brand. These Brands now fight for a space in the consumers heart.

Brand Leaders need to change.

This is our Beloved Brands credo, and the inside jacket of our new book to be released in early 2016.

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Here’s a presentation from our workshop on how to create a beloved brand

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911

biz card 2016.001

Get in the shoes of your consumer and speak with their voice.

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

All Beloved Pics.097I have found that the best marketers live and breathe the way their consumer lives. You have to get in the shoes of your consumer and speak with their voice. You need to define a very focused target market, not only deciding who is in the target but who is not. It’s much better to be loved by a few than merely tolerated by everyone. We have to use consumer insights to tell a story of our consumer and connect with them. We have to fight the consumer’s enemy to connect with consumers. We we believe that it is better to be loved by a few, and grow that core of fans, rather than merely tolerated by everyone. Show your consumers that you love them. Always love those who love you even more.

As Brand Leaders, our days get busy, running from meeting to meeting, trying to deliver our numbers, gain share and hit our forecasts.

  • I’m too busy. We have a few new products that are long over due and now we’re trying to make the most of them Finance has found a potential cost savings from the plant but it’s unsure if it will be off-set by a one time surcharge.
  • I’m too busy. We have a presentation at Wal-Mart next week and think we’ll walk away with a new listing. We have a new claim from the R&D team that we think delivers superiority versus our closest competitor.
  • I’m too busy. We have the go-ahead to do a new ad, but we think our senior managers will insist that we make the ad to their exact requirements and that it delivers their new vision statement.

This is an average day in marketing. Except, we have not thought once about the consumer. Maybe that’s the norm when we get so busy or face pressures to make the numbers.  

Stop and think like the consumer 

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

Take a walk in the shoes of your consumer: With most of us, when we first fell in love with marketing, there were two key elements that got our juices going: strategic thinking and consumer behavior. Marketing brings these two elements together in a very challenging way. You should be thinking about your consumer every day, all day. Yes, you need to hit your sales and share goals. But your consumers are your only source of revenue and you have to know them intimately.  Solving a consumer challenge feels like the biggest Rubik’s Cube we can find. The reason I mention this is if you want to connect with your team and motivate them, then start talking about the consumer and you’ll see their engagement go up.  This is what they love. Be curious about your consumer, constantly watching changes in the marketplace.

Live and breathe insights about your consumers. Insight is not something you just do when you’re spending the hour that you write your creative brief. You should be gathering insight at every chance you can, and unleashing that knowledge throughout every day. Insight is not something that your consumers never knew before. That would be knowledge not insight. It’s not data or fact about your brand that you want to tell. That helps, but you have to go a layer deeper to find your insights. Oddly enough, Insight is something that everyone already knows. Insight comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only who felt like that”. That’s why we laugh when see the way that insight is projected with humor, why we get goose bumps when insight is projected with inspiration and why we cry when the insight comes alive through real-life drama.  

BBI ads for 2015.005Get in the shoes of those consumers and you’ll quickly realize that consumers do not care about what you do, until you care about what they want. Instead of mentioning a feature, force yourself to ask “If I’m the consumer so what do I get” five times to see if you can get to the richness of the functional benefits. Then look at that functional benefit and ask “so how does that make me feel”. Stop talking features and start talking benefits–both the rational and emotional. No one has ever wanted a 1/4 inch drill, they just want a 1/4 inch hole.   

Consumers are busier than ever. Whether it’s working late, trying to balance everything or doing too much, they have so little time. People are multi-tasking, texting while driving or on the TV while watching TV—which is up 35% this year.  Traditional ways with a 30 second ad and a billboard aren’t having the same effect in today’s world. The average consumer is exposed to over 6,000 advertising message per day. The consumers’ brain sorts through the clutter until finds something that might fill their needs. Imagine your boring logical message, well thought and all, breaking through to that consumer. Even with the fast paced life, most consumers are bored with life and just want something to entice them. The simplest way to challenge boredom is to like everything you do unconditionally, but if this bored consumer meets up with a boring brand, it will be rejected very quickly. You have to matter to those consumers that really care. And you have to know what connects with them to get the way to stand out.   BBI ads for 2015.003

Living in the consumers shoes is contagious. When you start asking about how the consumer buys, what they are thinking about now or what do we want them to think, you’ll notice others on your team following your cues and start thinking like a consumer. It will be energizing. When you ask “will our consumer love this” it sets the bar very high. Here’s my simple challenge for you: If you don’t love the work you do, how do you expect the consumer to love your Brand. The best filter for your work is the consumer. It’s more important than what Wal-Mart thinks or what your boss likes/doesn’t like. When looking at new products, the R&D team should be more obsessed with what the consumer wants than what they might be capable of coming up in their lab. As Steve Jobs famously said “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”

Brand Leaders play it far too safe to find true love. Brand Leaders choose the safety of logic and facts instead of getting too deep or going all emotional with their consumer.And, most brands end up liked but never end loved. My mom wanted me to be an actuary. Apparently, an actuary has one of the longest life expectancies, can make quite a bit of money and they live the ideal work-life balance. Sounds like the perfect job, but I just couldn’t do it. What’s lacking in the life of an actuary is the ability to have fun at work or drive all your passion into your work to create something big. You can make a real difference. So if you’re not going to be an actuary…then stop acting like one when you’re the Brand Leader. We can’t afford to keep doing just the usual, we can’t get stuck in logic and we can’t just satisfy needs. We need to push to go beyond greatness at every touch point with our selfish and bored consumers. We need to cultivate a deep emotional relationship with our consumer and we need to entice craving and desire.  

For the best brand leaders, everything starts and ends with the consumer in mind.

Below is a presentation from our workshop that we run on helping brand leaders find a winning brand positioning statement:

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911biz card 2016.001