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

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

The 10 worst types of advertising clients

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

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

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

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

#3: Jekyll & Hyde

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

#4: The constant bad mood

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

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

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

#6: The dictator

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

#7: Driven by mandatories  

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

#8: The kitchen sink

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

#9: Keeps changing their mind

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

#10: The scientist:

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

 

Other stories you might like

 

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

This type of thinking is in my book, Beloved Brands

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

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

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

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

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

How to use your brand idea to drive every part of your organization

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

brand ideaThe brand idea must be interesting enough to engage and entice consumers on a first encounter to want to know more. Keep it simple enough to gain entry into the consumer’s mind. Your idea must be easily layered to organize everything you do. It should match up with the five consumer touchpoints, including the brand promise, brand story, innovation, purchase moment, and consumer experience.

Your idea must be unique enough to build a reputation so consumers will perceive the brand as better, different, or cheaper. And, your idea must be able to motivate consumers to think, feel, and act in ways that benefit your brand.

The idea must represent the inner brand soul of everyone who works on the brand, inspiring employees to deliver the brand promise and amazing experiences. Finally, the brand idea must be ownable, so no other competitor can infringe on your space, and you can confidently build your brand reputation over time.

The brand idea blueprint

I created a brand idea blueprint, which has five areas that surround the brand idea.

On the internal brand soul side, describe the products and services, as well as the cultural inspiration, which is the internal rallying cry to everyone who works on the brand. On the external brand reputation side, define the ideal consumer reputation and the reputation among necessary influencers or partners. The brand role acts as a bridge between the internal and external sides.

  • Products and services: What is the focused point of difference your products or services can win on because they meet the consumer’s needs and separate your brand from competitors?
  • Consumer reputation: What is the desired reputation of your brand, which attracts, excites, engages, and motivates consumers to think, feel, and purchase your brand?
  • Cultural inspiration: What is the internal rallying cry that reflects your brand’s purpose, values, motivations, and will inspire, challenge, and guide your culture?
  • Influencer reputation: Who are the key influencers and potential partners who impact the brand? What is their view of the brand, which would make them recommend or partner with your brand?
  • Brand role (archetype): What is the link between the internal sound and the external reputation?

brand idea

How to find your brand idea

Step 1: Keywords brainstorm for each of the five areas

With a cross-functional team working on the brand, start off with a brainstorm of keywords for each of the five areas around the brand idea. Expose the team to the work you have done on the brand positioning statement, including details on the target profile, consumer benefits ladder work, and the consumer benefits sort. Ask participants to bring their knowledge, wisdom, and opinions from where they sit within the organization.

The first step is generating 15-20 words that describe each of the five areas.

brand idea

Step 2: Turn keywords into key phrases for each of the five areas

Next, get the team to vote to narrow down the list to the best 3-5 words for each section. You will begin to see certain themes and keywords. Take those selected words and build phrases to summarize each section.

Step 3: Summarize it all to create a brand idea

Once you have phrases for all five areas, the team should feel inspired to use their creative energy to come up with the brand idea. Find a summary statement that captures everything around the circle. Try to get a few different options for the brand idea you can test with both consumers and employees.

Brand Idea

The brand idea should steer everyone who works behind the scenes of the brand.

Brand leaders must manage the consistent delivery of the brand idea over every consumer touchpoint. Whether people are in management, customer service, sales, HR, operations, or an outside agency, everyone should be looking to the brand idea to guide and focus their decisions.

With old-school marketing, the brand would advertise on TV to drive awareness and interest, use bright, bold packaging in store with reinforced messages to close the sale. If the product satisfied consumers’ needs, they would repeat and build the brand into their day-to-day routines.

Today’s market is a cluttered mess. The consumer is bombarded with brand messages all day, and inundated with more information from influencers, friends, experts, critics, and competitors. While the internet makes shopping easier, consumers must now filter out tons of information daily. Moreover, the consumer’s shopping patterns have gone from a simple, linear purchase pattern into complex, cluttered chaos.

Five main touchpoints reach consumers, including the brand promise, brand story, innovation, purchase moment, and consumer experience. Regardless of the order, they reach the consumer; if the brand does not deliver a consistent message, the consumer will be confused and likely shut out that brand. While brands cannot control what order each touchpoint reaches the consumer, they can undoubtedly align each of those touchpoints under the brand idea.

How the brand idea stretches across the five consumer touchpoints

  • Brand promise: Use the brand idea to inspire a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, and projects your brand as better, different, or cheaper, based on your brand positioning.
  • Brand story: The brand story must come to life to motivate consumers to think, feel, or act while establishes the ideal brand’s reputation to be held in the minds and hearts of the consumer. The brand story should align all brand communications across all media options.
  • Innovation: Build a fundamentally sound product, staying at the forefront of trends and technology to deliver innovation. Steer the product development teams to ensure they remain true to the brand idea.
  • Purchase moment: The brand idea must move consumers along the purchase journey to the final purchase decision. The brand idea helps steer the sales team and sets up retail channels to close the sale.
  • Consumer experience: Turn the usage into a consumer experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of the consumer’s day. The brand idea guides the culture of everyone behind the brand to deliver the experience.

Marketing your brand to employees inside your own company

The best brands consistently deliver. When you build your brand idea, I recommend you use a cross-functional team, including salespeople, R&D, human resources, finance, and operations. Their participation is one way to gain their buy-in. But that’s not where it stops. 

Use your internal brand communications tools to drive a shared definition of the brand idea, as well as getting everyone to articulate how their role delivers that brand idea. Give the external and internal brand story equal importance to the consumer experience you create for your brand.

Everyone who works on the brand should use the brand idea as inspiration, and to guide decisions and activities across every function of your organization. It is the people within the brand organization who will deliver the brand idea to the consumer. Everyone needs a common understanding of and talking points for the brand.

When you work on a brand that leads to the customer experience, your operations people will be responsible for the face-to-face delivery of your brand to the consumer. Develop a list of service values, behaviors, and processes to deliver the brand idea throughout your organization. 

Using your brand idea to build a brand credo document

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

Brand Idea

You should have all the material you need to create a brand credo document.

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

The hub-and-spoke brand management system

Brand management was built on a hub-and-spoke system, with the brand manager expected to sit right in the middle of the organization, helping drive everything and everyone around the brand. However, it is the brand idea that lies at the center with everyone connected to the brand expected to understand and deliver the idea.

Brand Idea

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: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order: https://lnkd.in/gDA5Aiw

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 graham@beloved-brands.com 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.

Signature

Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.

 

What do you think of the new Diet Coke logo and packaging?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

diet cokeThe new Diet Coke package design is certainly colorful but the strategy behind the package seems confusing. The simplest test that I always do with logo design or even print ads. Take a step back and ask “What’s the first thing you see?”  I see the word “Coke”. I see it on the traditional Coke red background.

What’s the second thing you see?  I see multiple colors. And I think, aren’t a few of those formerly failed flavors from the past few decades?

What’s the third thing you see?  I see weird little drawings along the bottom of the can, that I’m not sure what those are?  If you force me to look, maybe I will. Why is the cherry flavor in purple, and not red? You have to look at your execution as though you are a consumer.

What I haven’t seen yet, is the word “Diet”. Hmmm. Oh, there it is, very small, sideways and in a script that’s hard to read. Why are you hiding the word Diet, when your brand name is DIET COKE?

Is Diet Coke a brand itself, or is it part of a master brand?

diet cokeI know a few years ago, Coke tried to make all the packaging look the same, so that it looked like one big family, with most of the can using the big Coca Cola red logo. It was done in a test market and failed miserably. But it showed you the strategic mindset.

Coke needs to face that carbonated beverages are in sharp decline

diet cokeThis decline has to change your strategy. While Coke and Pepsi have been in a share dog fight for the last 50 years, that fight is now a fight for survival. With both Coke and Pepsi stretched across legacy success stories of the original, diet and zero/max sub-brands, and stretched across legacy success flavors, the reality is that the consumer mind space and retailer shelf space will eventually collapse.

The only remaining strategy is to beat each other.

It reminds me of that great mythology story about two hunters bedded down at their campfire and were about to fall asleep when a giant bear loomed in front of them. One hunter rushed to put on his sneakers. The other said, “What good will that do? You will never outrun that bear.” The first one said, “I am not worried about outrunning the bear. All I have to do is outrun you!”

That’s where the Coke brand is right now. All they have to do for the decade is outrun Pepsi. Don’t over think some of the things you are currently over-thinking.

  • Diet Coke is a brand, not a sub brand. Launched in 1981, it was treated as though it were its own brand from day one. Why try to change that now, especially as you face a declining category? Use the separate Diet Coke brand to your advantage to squeeze out Pepsi.
  • I know the word “diet” might not fit our modern day “organic” and “low carb” words. But “Diet Coke” means more to consumers than the word diet. Maybe you should have called it Coke Light like Europe does. But it is what it is. Don’t over think it.
  • Those look like cute flavor choices, but launching four new flavors at once is crazy. Your retailers will likely take one or two. Also, launching four at once just spreads your sales across the four flavors so that none of them will generate high enough sales to hit a threshold of success.

So I guess I don’t like the strategy, the naming or the design. What do you think?

To learn more about how to judge advertising that works, here is our Marketing Execution workshop we run to help train Brand Leaders:

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.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

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 big 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. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving 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. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

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

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson 

 

 

 

 

 

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20 thought starters to challenge brand managers to be better

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Here are twenty simple messages to provoke and challenge your thinking as a brand manager.

  1. Consumer Insight comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes people stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only one who felt like that.:20 thought starters
  2. Can you explain your brand (or your personal brand) in 7 seconds, 2 minutes and 30 minutes? You should be able to organize your thinking.
  3. 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. Moreover, they reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planning who can see connections. Instinctual Thinkers see answers before questions. They get to answers quickly, and get frustrated in delays. They believe doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Instinctual thinkers opt for action over thinking. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. They get frustrated by strategic thinkers.
  4. Learn to change your brain speeds, knowing when to go slow and when to go fast. Think slowly with strategy. Think quickly with instincts.
  5. The role of BRAND is to create a bond, power, and profit, beyond what the product itself could achieve. In fact, we only have brands, if we think we can make more money from the brand than just the product alone. The really is no other reason.
  6. The more loved a brand is by consumers, the more, the more powerful and profitable that brand can be.
  7. Halfway between the exactness of Science and the unknown of Art lies the power of an IDEA that can bring them together”
  8. The best brands are either different, better or cheaper. Or else, not around for very long. Do you know what your brand is?
  9. Consumers don’t care what you do until you care what they want. Instead of just yelling what you do, put yourself in the consumers’ shoes and ask yourself  “so what do get?” and then ask “so how does that make me feel?” This turns product features into consumer benefits, both functional and emotional. 
  10. The power of three helps provide focus. If your brand only has 3 strategies and each strategy only has 3 tactics, then you should be able to do an amazing job on all 9. Much better than 5 strategies times 5 tactics and 25 things. I would bet that my 9 would beat your 25 any day.
  11. The better your people, the better the work, the better the business results. So then, are you doing enough to make your people better? Invest in training your people.
  12. Ask your people at every stage “Do you love it?” and watch their eyes to see if they tell the truth. Because, if you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?
  13. A beloved brand uses the love consumers have for the brand to replicate the positional power of a Monopoly. And from that power, the Beloved Brand drives stronger growth and higher profits.
  14. Smart media plans start with understanding where the customer is, not where the media is.
  15. Analytical stories get decision-makers to “what do you think” stage Analysis turns fact into insight and data breaks form the story that sets up strategic choices.
  16. If you knew that being a better client would get you better advertising, do you think you’d be able to show up better?
  17. If you aren’t talented enough to come up with an ad in the first place, then why are you now talented enough to do something even harder: change the ad. Instead of telling the creative team your changes, I’d rather you give the creative team your problem with the ad, and let them figure out it rather than your solution for the ad and let them feel demoralized.
  18. Creative advertising people are problem solvers, not blue sky thinkers. So give them a problem, not a blank page. They are “in the box” thinkers not “out of the” box thinkers. Use your brief to put them in a box and your creative direction to put them in a new box.
  19. The classic flaw of Brand Plans is having both penetration and Usage frequency. Penetration Strategy gets someone with very little experience with your brand to likely consider dropping their current brand to try you once and see if they like it. Usage Frequency Strategy gets someone who knows your brand to change their behavior in relation to your brand, either changing their current life routine or substituting your brand into a higher share of the occasions. Trying to do both at the same time will destroy your plan.
  20. We control more than we think we do. But just like in sports, the most competitive weapon we have is the creation of time and space. The most competitive brands act quickly, before others do and create a space around themselves that they own, through reputation, and are free from attack.

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

Beloved Brands Book

I wrote my book, Beloved Brands, as the playbook for how to build a brand your consumers will love.

Beloved Brands has everything you need to run your brand. You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a marketing plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

  • How to think strategically
  • Write a brand positioning statement
  • Come up with a brand idea
  • Write a brand plan everyone can follow
  • Write an inspiring creative brief
  • Make decisions on marketing execution
  • Conduct a deep-dive business review
  • Learn finance 101 for marketers

Available on Amazon, Apple Books or Kobo

We have the paperback and e-book version on Amazon. Click here to order: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe  

We are also on Apple Books, which you can click here to order: https://lnkd.in/e6UFisF

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

At Beloved Brands, we help build brands that consumers love and we make brand leaders smarter.

🎈Help create a brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives your brand an ownable competitive advantage.

🎈 Build a marketing plan that forces smart focused decisions to help organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth

🎈Align your marketing execution behind a brand idea that tightens our bond with consumers and moves them through their buying journey

🎈Use a deep-dive 360-degree assessment of your brand’s performance to trigger richer thinking before you write your brand plan

🎈Our brand training program will help realize the full potential of your brand leaders, so they are ready to grow your brand.

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

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

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Graham Robertson signature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to win the competitive battle for your consumer’s heart

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

You must decide if you will position your brand to be better, different, or cheaper. Otherwise, you will not be around for very long. 

A winning brand position matches what consumers want with what your brand does best, always better than your competitors. I will outline four types of competitive brand strategy situations: the power player, challenger brand, disruptor brand and the craft brand. You must identify and choose one competitive situation, which best fits where you are today, and where you want to go next.

To find the competitive space in which your brand can win, I introduce the Venn diagram of competitive situations. Looking below, the first circle should list out everything the consumer wants. The second circle then lists everything your brand does best. And, finally, the third circle lists everything your competitor does best.

 
 

To win, brands have to find the space where they are better, different, cheaper…or else they will not around for very long.

To find your brand’s winning zone, you should match up what consumers want with what your brand does best. This provides you a distinct space that you can own and defend from attack. To maintain ownership over that space, your brand should always be able to satisfy the needs of the consumer better than anyone else can.

Your brand will not survive in the losing zone, which is the space that matches up the consumer needs with the area where your competitor does it better than your brand. It is dangerous to try to play in this space, because over the long term, your competitor will beat you.

Brands can win the risky zone

As markets mature, competitors copy each other. It becomes harder to be better with a definitive product win, and that leaves you to play in the risky zone, which is the space where you and your competitor both meet the consumer’s needs in a relative tie. The tie is important to understand, because brands can still win the tie when they make their brand seem different enough that consumers perceive their brand to be better. Perception becomes reality. The four ways to win the risky zone is to leverage your brand’s power in the market to squeeze out lesser brands, or to be the first to capture and defend the space, or to win with innovation and creativity, or find ways to build a deeper emotional connection.

Sadly, I do have to always mention the dumb zone where two competitors “battle it out” in the space where consumers do not care. One competitor says, “We are faster” and the other thinks, “We are just as fast”. A competitive war starts up, yet no one bothered to ask the consumer if they care.

Competitive situations

Brands rarely experience competitive isolation. Even in a blue ocean situation, the euphoria of being alone quickly turns to a red ocean, cluttered with the blood from nasty battling competitors. The moment we think we are alone, a competitor is watching and believing they can do it better than we can. When you ignore your competition, believing only the consumer matters, you are on a naive pathway to losing. Competitors can help sharpen our focus and tighten our language on the brand positioning we project to the marketplace.

Regarding marketing war games, I will use this Venn diagram to map out four types of competitive brands: 

  1. Power players
  2. Challenger brands
  3. Disruptor brands
  4. Craft brands. 

Power Player brands

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

Regarding positioning, the power player brands own what they are best at and leverage their power in the market to help them own the position where there is a tie with another competitor. 

Owning both zones helps expand the brand’s presence and power across a bigger market. These brands can also use their exceptional financial situation to invest in innovation to catch up, defend, or stay ahead of competitors.

Power player brands must defend their territory by responding to every aggressive competitor’s attacks. 

They even need to attack themselves by vigilantly watching for internal weaknesses to close any potential leaks before a competitor notices. Power player brands can never become complacent, or they will die.    

 

One of the best contemporary power player brands is Google, which has managed to dominate the search engine market. The company’s extreme focus and smart execution gained market power and squeezed out Microsoft and Yahoo. Focused on providing knowledge for consumers, Google has continued to expand its services into a bundle of products with e-mail, maps, apps, docs, cloud technology, and cell phones. Regarding advertising dollars, the combination of Google and Facebook now accounts for over 80% of all digital advertising spending. We are currently entering the digital duopoly age with influence shared between these two power player brands. 

Challenger brands

Challenger brands must change the playing field by amplifying what your brand does best while simultaneously repositioning the power player brand you want to take down. 

While your first instinct would be to attack the power player’s weakness, the smarter move is to reposition one of the power player’s well-known strengths into a perceived weakness. This strategy helps move the power player brand outside of what consumers want.

When you attack a power player brand, be ready for the leader’s potential defensive moves and anticipate a response with full force, as the power player brand has more significant resources than you. Be highly confident that your attack will make a positive impact before you begin to enter into a war. The worst situation is to start a war, you cannot win, as it will drain your brand’s limited resources, only to end up with the same market share after the war. 

Since the power player leader tries to be everything to everyone, you can narrow your attack to slice off those consumers who are frustrated with the leading brand. Tap into their frustration to help kickstart a migration of consumers away from the leader. If you can gain these lost consumers, you can quickly change share positions. 

One of the best examples of a challenger brand that made significant gains is the Pepsi Challenge from the 1970s. It was a direct offensive attack on Coke. In blind taste tests, Pepsi was the preferred brand. Pepsi is a much sweeter taste, so in a quick hit, it was the chosen brand. Coke is an acquired and memorable taste. The blind taste test took away the Coke brand name and the emotional feelings of that brand. At the same time, Pepsi amplified its strength as the “new generation” and positioned the brand as the solution to consumers ready to reject the “old taste” of Coke. This approach was so powerful it was even a contributing factor to the launch of a sweeter “New Coke.” 

Disruptor brands

Disruptor brands move into a blue ocean space, alone. They use a new product, distribution channel, target market, or price point. They are so different that they appear to be the only brand that can satisfy the consumer’s changing needs.

When successful, the disruptor brand repositions the major players, making them appear unattached to consumers. 

While everyone wants a game-changer, it is a high-risk, high-reward competitive situation. The trick is you have to be “so different” to catch the consumer’s attention and mindshare. Being profoundly different increases the risk you may fail. Also, your success may invite other entrants to follow. At that point, you become the new power player of the new segment. You have to continue attacking the major players while defending against new entrants who attack your brand.

Uber, Netflix, and Airbnb are contemporary brands that effectively use modern technology to create such a unique offering that they cast major category-leading brands or entire industries as outdated and outside what consumers want. Uber disrupted the taxi market, Netflix is revolutionizing the way we watch TV, and Airbnb has had a dramatic impact on hotels. These brands have a smarter ordering system, better service levels, and significantly lower prices.

Craft brand

Craft brands must win a small space in the marketplace that offers something unique to a highly engaged target. These brands succeed when they are far enough away from major competitors that the leaders ignore them because craft brands stay hidden away. 

Craft brands build themselves behind a micro-benefit, including gluten-free, low fat, locally grown, organic or ethically sourced. These craft brands take an antagonistic approach to the rest of the category, portraying every other brand in the category as old-school, overly corporate, unethical, flawed in the manufacturing or the use of ingredients. Many times, these brands take a very aggressive marketing stance, calling out the other brands as unethical or stupid. Craft brands believe it is better to be loved by the few than liked or tolerated by many.

A fantastic of example a craft brand is Five Guys Burgers, which uses fresh, high-quality beef and a commitment not to begin cooking your burger until you order it. The portions are more substantial than typical fast food, and they charge super-premium prices. Five Guys have gone in the opposite direction to most fast food restaurants, whose meals seem frozen and microwaved. Five Guys expanded rapidly with word-of-mouth helping the brand earn a reputation as “the best burger.” Now that Five Guys has become a global brand, McDonald’s has to figure out an adequate competitive response. 

Another excellent example of a craft brand is Dollar Shave, which launched as an online subscription model for razor blades. Dollar Shave uses smart sourcing and a direct-to-consumer distribution model. This efficient model eliminates costs and allows the brand to sell razors at a fraction of the cost you pay for Gillette. For consumers, the price of razor blades has gotten out of control, no matter how much innovation the leaders try to portray. Dollar Shave’s advertising openly mocked Gillette, yet it started in such a small niche, so Gillette ignored them. While year one sales were only $30 million, without a competitive response from Gillette, Dollar Shave continued to grow year-by-year, until Unilever recently purchased the brand for $1 billion. 

Our marketing training program

This type of thinking is in my book, Beloved Brands

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

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

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

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

If your brand is afraid of Amazon, then you should be terrified of Alibaba

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

[sg_popup id=”9″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]Now begins the North American battle of Amazon vs Walmart, with the winner to take on Alibaba on the world’s retailer stage.

alibabaI love watching the Kentucky Derby, especially those horses that start off slow, then pick it up on the back straight, and then basically fly past everyone on the last turn, like they are standing still. That’s how I feel about watching the Alibaba brand.

The joint venture between Walmart and Google is a signal that both might be a little bit scared of Amazon. 

But, Alibaba is using their dominance in the world’s largest market (China) to pick up all that speed in the back straight and likely beat both Amazon and Walmart.

Walmart is a tough competitor. They won’t go down without a fight.

Obviously, Amazon has a huge advantage in the US, but things are about to get really ugly as Walmart and Amazon attempt to destroy each other. 

But, if you have ever dealt with Walmart, you would have to be an idiot to ever count them out. Their culture focuses on the relentless fixation on fast-moving items that helps drive cash flow. Sure, Walmart beats up their vendors over price–but that’s mainly to drive sell through. If your brand moves slow, there is no debate–you are told to speed up your sales, and if you don’t, you are gone.

I remember when Walmart starting sending us their weekly sales data. My first thought was “Wow, this is true partnership, amazing data, thanks Walmart”. Then the questions started to come. “Your 250ml cherry flavored cough syrup is not selling fast enough, what will you do to accelerate turns”. We lowered the price. Or even worse, “Your Listerine Pocketpaks product accounts for the highest theft of any product in our stores, fix it”. We changed the packaging, just because they asked us.   In the bricks and mortar space, while most department store retailers sell through their inventory in 130-150 days. Walmart sells through their inventory in 29 days. That’s cash flow.

I expect Walmart will go lower on price than Amazon can tolerate. What retailer owned the low price positioning before Walmart?  Sears. If you go compare prices at Walmart and Sears, you will see why Sears stores are empty and about to go bankrupt.

Does the Google partnership help Walmart?  A little. But both better step it up fast. If Walmart loses to Amazon, the case study class starts off with “Walmart should have started their on-line war with Amazon in 2002, not 2017.”

Even if Amazon can tolerate lower prices and eventually beats Walmart, it will do some damage to their profits. Amazon will experience lower margins, squeezed cash flow, and a divided consumer base. It will further open the possibility of seeing Alibaba entering the US market.

Why Alibaba will win

Alibaba, valued at $420 Billion has seen an 80% increase in the market capitalization in the past twelve months. In the same period, Amazon has seen a 20% increase, still with a slight lead at $465 Billion. 

Here are 5 reasons why Alibaba will eventually win the global e-commerce retail space:

  1. Alibaba can utilize their home-field advantage. Alibaba is dominating the Chinese market, which is the #1 e-commerce population in the world. China has 500 million active on-line users, is twice the size of the US market. Walmart and Amazon will divide up the US market.
  2. Alibaba has a business model that delivers higher profitability. Alibaba’s business model, with no listing fees, with the bulk of their revenue coming from keywords and digital-advertising is closer to the social media model. This gives Alibaba significantly higher margins than Amazon. 
  3. Alipay payment system.  Alibaba launched a digital payment system in 2004, just for their own customers. Along with WePay, it has become the accepted method of payment in China. They have moved to a cashless and even cardless payment world. 
  4. Alibaba will ride the growth curve of the Chinese Economy. Despite the recent slowdown, China’s economy is still growing at almost three times the rate of the US – around 7% over the last couple of years, compared to less than 2.5%.The US has a growing trade deficit – it imports more than it exports – while China imports significantly less than it exports, resulting in a trade surplus.
  5. Alibaba’s sales will benefit from the growth of the Chinese Middle Class. In the last ten years, the average income for China has tripled. It is expected that from 2012 to 2022, those in China making more than $34K US will increase from 3% currently up to 9%, and those in the growing middle class ($16K to $34K) will increase from 14% up to 54%.

So when will Alibaba move west? Likely after the Walmart vs Amazon dust settles. By 2020, I would expect both Walmart and Amazon to be weakened. Whoever wins will have to take on a very healthy, highly profitable, cash-rich Alibaba. Realistically, Alibaba could end up two or three times the size of Amazon.Then it will be like watching that horse in the Kentucky Derby, with Alibaba rounding the final turn on the way to the finish line.

To read more on competitive strategy, click on this link: 

Competitive Brand Strategy

 

In retail, the smart money should be on Alibaba for the win.  

 

To learn about strategic thinking, follow this powerpoint slide presentation. 

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

Beloved Brands is a brand strategy and marketing training firm that is focused on the future growth of your brand and your people.

It is our fundamental belief that the more loved your brand is by your most cherished consumers, the more powerful and profitable your brand will be. We also believe that better marketing people will lead to smarter strategy choices and tightly focused marketing execution that will higher growth for your brands.

With our workshops, we use our unique tools force you to think differently and help unleash new strategy solutions to build around. I believe the best solutions lay deep inside you already, but struggle to come out. In every discussion, I bring a challenging yet understanding voice to bring out the best in you and help you craft an amazing strategy.

We will help you find a unique and own-able Big Idea that will help you stand out from the clutter of today’s marketplace. The Big Idea must serve to motivate consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal connection with your brand. Equally, the Big Idea must work inside your organization, to inspire all employees who work behind the scenes to deliver happy experiences for consumers.

We will help build a brand plan everyone can follow. It starts with an inspiring vision to push your team. We then force strategy choices on where to allocate your limited resources. With our advice on brand execution, we can steer the brand towards brand love and brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this linkBeloved Brands Strategic Coaching

At Beloved Brands, we deliver brand training programs that make brand leaders smarter so they are able to drive added growth on your brands. 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 learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Graham Robertson Beloved Brands

 

McDonald’s service hits rock bottom in drive thru ratings

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

McDonald’s was founded on the basis of customer service.

Ray Kroc, the original McDonald’s CEO put huge emphasis on a customer first mentality: “McDonald’s is a people business, and that smile on that counter girl’s face when she takes your order is a vital part of our image.” That seems to be lost in this generation of leaders at McDonald’s. 

In a recent study by QSR magazine on the attributes of customer service through the drive-thru window, McDonald’s finished rock bottom on attributes linked to friendliness. I always believe “manners and smiles are free”, when the reality is they need to be embedded within the culture of the organization. They are hard work.

When it comes to smiling, McDonald’s finishes last at 62%, almost 30% lower than Chick-Fil-A. 

And when it comes to saying “Thank You” McDonald’s also finishes rock bottom with only 78% of occasions compared to 95% for Chick-Fil-A. 

Chick-Fil-A is the gold standard on service when it comes to drive thru. They believe that employees are the company’s “secret recipe,” and the drive-thru strategy is designed around people as much as it is technology and systems. “It’s all about speed and accuracy, but we know our customers appreciate that we can be nice while being fast and accurate. Eye contact and smiling go a long way in the drive-thru experience.”

McDonald's Service level

Even on speed of service, McDonald’s now finishes mid pack. Wendy’s is the leader in speed, about 45 seconds faster on average. A quote from Wendy’s on the drive thru service says the fast service is the result of the company tirelessly tracking line times and optimizing the layout of the kitchens:  “Customers visit the drive thru due to its convenience, so we strive to meet that expectation every day, every customer.

McDonald’s service might just get worse, not better

McDonald’s have stated that they are going to invest billions in 2017 to revamp their entire kitchens to be able to serve high quality and fresh meat in their hamburgers. Wow. I am big fan of Five Guys, In-N-Out burger, Shake Shack and Big Smoke burgers. But, they are never fast. They each say they won’t start cooking your burger until you order it. At Five Guys, you can see them even pull the burger out and placed on the grill. The one big difference is that Five Guys basically only serve burgers. What will happen to the McDonald’s drive thru if I just want a coffee, yet have to sit behind 9 people ordering fresh burgers. It just won’t work.

How do you communicate your brand story internally?

With most brands I meet up with, I ask “What is the Big Idea behind your brand?” I rarely get a great answer. When I ask a Leadership Team, I normally get a variety answers. When I ask the most far-reaching sales reps, the scientists in the lab or their retailer partners, the answers get worse. That is not healthy. Everyone who touches that brand should be able to explain what it stands for in seven seconds, sixty seconds, thirty minutes or at every consumer touch-point. They should always be delivering the same message. There are too many Brands where what gets said to the consumer is different from what gets said inside the corporate walls. The Big Idea must organize the culture to ensure everyone who is tasked to meet the needs of both consumers and customers, whether they are in HR, product development, finance, operations and experience delivery teams, must all know their role in delivering the Big Idea.

Too many brands believe brand messaging is something that Advertising does. The more focus we put on delivering an amazing consumer experience, the more we need to make sure the external and internal brand story are aligned. It should be the Big Idea that drives that story. Every communication to employees, whether in a town-hall speech, simple memo or celebration should touch upon the brand values that flow from the Big Idea, highlighting examples when employees have delivered on a certain brand value.

brand culture

The Big Idea Should Drive The Culture

Brand Management was originally built on a hub-and-spoke system, with the Brand Manager expected to sit right in the middle of the organization, helping drive everything and everyone around the Brand. However, it should actually be the brand’s Big Idea that sits at the center, with everyone connected to the brand expected to understand and deliver the idea. Aligning the brand with the culture is essential to the long-term success of the brand. The best brands look to the overall culture as an asset that helps create a powerful consumer experience. The expected behaviors of the operations team behind the consumer experience should flow out of the brand values that flow from the big idea. These values act as guideposts to ensure that the behavior of everyone in the organization is set to deliver the brand’s promise.

 

Here’s a powerpoint presentation on how to define your brand, including the benefit cluster tool.

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

The miraculous transition of China is happening, but it may take the entire century to complete.

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

China is in the midst of rapid growth that will continue to transform the country into an economic powerhouse throughout this century. As a Canadian, I find it fascinating to see elements that are ahead and behind the western world.

Old world versus future world

There are many layers of complexity within China, whether cultures, tiers of cities or the stark differences in generations. The older adults are living the simple lifestyle they learned in the 20th century. It is common to see 50-year-olds riding basic bicycles to work. Or see people eating at small local eateries that do not look or feel safe in western standards.

However, young adults are not only modern; they appear to be living in the future, beyond western standards. Everything is app based, e-commerce driven, global payments and QR codes for purchasing or learning more. While we have the odd retailer specific payment app here in the West, we do not yet have globally accepted pay apps that stretch across all retailers.

Alibaba is a brand we all need to watch

On my two most recent trips to China, I have noticed a considerable decline in retailers, restaurants or even or taxis that take Visa. Everyone is using Alipay, linked closely to the Alibaba e-commerce giant (market capitalization of $350B) who could take on Amazon (market capitalization of $450B) on the world stage. 

alipayAs much as we in the west are fascinated with Amazon, do you think you understand Alibaba enough to learn from them? Alibaba’s market capitalization has gone from $200B up to $356B in the last 12 months. A 78% gain in 12 months. Wow. 

The social media app of choice is WeChat with almost a billion active users. WeChat provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast messaging, video conferencing, video games, sharing of photographs and videos, and location sharing. You can even exchange contacts with people nearby via Bluetooth. Like Alipay, WeChat has a payment service that wants to be considered the digital wallet. When will these global payment systems become mainstream in the west? And who will own it?  

Income disparity is vast, but signs of improving

In the last ten years, the average income for China has tripled. The problem is that it is still under USD 10,000, compared with over $45,000 for many of the western nations it competes with. Within any statistics in China, there are layers of complexity. The most significant layer of complexity is around the disparity of income levels. 

While people of the west are trying to figure out solutions of rich versus poor, the evidence is even more overwhelming in China. With a high growth economy, they are starting to see the trickle-down impact of wealth, helping the creation of a real middle class in China.

It is expected that from 2012 to 2022, those in China making more than $34K US will increase from 3% currently up to 9%, and those in the growing middle class ($16K to $34K) will increase from 14% up to 54%.  These are huge jumps that will likely continue for the entire century. Wealth in China

The growing professional workforce will be the most significant force of transformation of the economy. Reminiscent of America in the 1950s, Chinese parents are investing in the education for their children, as they realize their children will be richer 20 years from now than they are today. This was the root of the American dream. 

The rapid growth of cities appears well planned

Shenzhen ChinaI loved my recent trip to Shenzhen, just across the water from Hong Kong. On a daily basis, thousands and thousands of Hong Kong residents stream across the border to work in Shenzhen. It’s not an easy commute going through border patrols and customs, to and from work each day.

Shenzhen is quickly transforming into a beautiful city. One of the most underestimated elements of China are the trees throughout the streets. When a westerner would think about cities of 25-30 million, we would normally think it must be a concrete jungle. Shenzhen in China is lined with gorgeous and rich trees. Similar to Shanghai of the French concession area. Keep in mind, Shenzhen did not even exist 20 years ago, and today, it is home to 20-25 million people. This city is benefiting from smart urban planning.

Luxury brands are everywhere

Within the city, they have created neighborhoods for the rich, with some of the nicest malls you will find. Evidence of the disparity of income is everywhere. Shenzhen MallsI went through an affluent shopping mall in Shenzhen that would rival any high-end mall in America. Hugo Boss, Coach, Sephora, Rolex, Lululemon. You name a brand, and this mall had it.

I browsed for prices and could not find any deals. Imported goods in China are a sign of prestige, yet you will have to pay for it through higher prices.

There are 2,600 Starbucks throughout China. If these high-end items are considered badge brands in the west, imagine what a badge it is to confirm your social status as one who has made it in China.

Further evidence was the cars on the road including Mercedes, BMW’s, Range Rovers, Ferrari’s and Audi’s. While China has recently become the #1 car market in the world, only those in the elite class are driving cars.

Bikes are still a reality

Most western cities have bike rentals, where you slide in your visa and take a gentle ride to see the sights. In Europe and North America, it’s something tourists would use. In China, these bikes offer a much more functional need state, and this is seen as a business that has been a disruption to transportation so that people can get to and from work. The bikes are not locked, and they do not accept Visa. People here use WeChat or Alipay payment apps on their phones, to scan the barcode on the bike and then pay and go where you need to go.

5 Questions for the future

As I look at the next 80+ years for China, here are the questions in my mind

  1. Will China make the shift a product-driven economy to a brand-driven economy? 
  2. Can locally grown brands begin to push back against the influx of the imported brands?
  3. How will China close the gap on Marketing talent, to be strong on strategy, analytics, brand positioning, brand planning and creative marketing execution?
  4. Will China be able to move some of their successful platforms such as WeChat or Alibaba into the western markets? Will we ever see a global battle between Alibaba and Amazon? 
  5. How long can China sustain such a growth mode before they need to make adjustments, and how will they handle the normal ups and downs of growth and recessions?

Here’s a Powerpoint presentation on how to get how to create a beloved brand, something for China to consider as they shift from product-driven economy to a brand-driven.

And, keep an eye out for the launch of our first book. We will be launching beloved brands in April of 2018.

beloved brands book

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.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

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 big 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. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving 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. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

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

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Graham Robertson bio

The reasons why so many Marketers suck at Advertising! Here is how you can get better!

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

I always get asked “So what is it that makes some Marketers great at advertising?”.  To me, the best Marketers are able to get great advertising on the air and keep bad advertising off the air.

I have seen some Marketers who are great at the execution side, but I have see more who struggle. I try to tell people that it really takes five big campaigns for you to get into your zone where you are good. That might sound a little comforting, but it is supposed to be equally challenging because it suggests you should learn from those five campaigns so you become great.  Too many Marketers who struggle, actually get worse. They start to believe they suck, or their agency sucks.  Sure Advertising takes some  good instincts, but it also takes experience, practice, leadership and a willingness to adjust. You can learn how to be great. You will not learn if you do not adjust. 

If you knew that being a better client would make your execution better, could you actually show up better? Would you?

From my experience, here are the main reasons that some Brand Leaders kinda suck at advertising.

You blame yourself

  • You never find your comfort zone: You have convinced yourself that you are not good at Advertising, so you show up skeptical, uptight, too tough or too easy and you seem easily annoyed by everything.
  • You don’t know if it is really your place to say something: You figure the agency is the expert and will even say “That’s why we pay them” so you give them no direction. Or worse, you give them the chance to mess up and blame them later. You can never abdicate decision-making to anyone else, when you are running your brand.  
  • You settle for something you hate, because of time pressure: The agency says if we don’t go for it now, we will miss our air date and have to give up our media to another brand. So you cave in to the pressure and go with the Ad you hate. You have to figure out how to use time pressure to your advantage. A lot of the best ideas come right up against the clock. 
  • You can’t sell it in to management: You are not sure if it is the right thing to do, which makes you hesitant and unable to sell the idea in to your boss. Once you decide, you have to own it and sell it. 

You blame the Agency

  • The Agency writes a brief you don’t like or you box the Agency into a strategy they don’t like: If either of you force a brief on each other, then you are off to a bad start. You must be collaborative with your agency.
  • The Agency’s creative team over sells you and you feel you get hood-winked: You are not sure what you want, so you settle for an OK ad in front of you—the best of what you saw. Tell your agency you have to love the work and then if you don’t love it, you have to reject it.
  • You lose connection with the agency: One of your primary roles is to keep your agency motivated, challenged and engaged. Be the client they want to make great work on, rather than have to work on. And never assume they have to work for you, just because you are paying them. You might be paying WPP, but you are not really paying the people at the table. 
  • You lose traction through the production and edit: Talent, lighting, directors and edits—if the tone changes from the board to edit, so does your ad. This is where experience pays off. The advertising process is likely more complex than anything else you will work on. 

You blame your brand

  • The “I work on a boring brand” argument: You think only cool brands like Nike or Apple would be so much easier to work on. Guess what, Nike and Apple don’t really need you. However, with a so-called boring brand, you have more room for creativity, that while it is a challenge, it should actually be even easier to work on a boring brand.
  • You are too careful: Great ads either go left or right, not in the middle of the road. You have to learn how to take smart creative risks.
  • Advertising roulette: Where brand managers have not done the depth of thinking or testing, the briefing is like a game of chance. You have to do the homework to know your strategy is right, making the execution easier to nail. You should never figure out your advertising strategy by doing advertising work. 
  • Your strategy sucks: You figure we don’t have a great strategy, so maybe a good Ad can help. A great strategy can make an ad, but an Ad by itself will never make a great strategy.

Marketing Execution Advertising

To get better, you have to find the magic in the execution of a brand. Inspire greatness.

All of our work is done through other people. Our greatness as a Brand Leader has to come from the experts we engage, so they will be inspired to reach for their own greatness and apply it on our brand. Brand Management has been built on a hub-and-spoke system, with a team of experts surrounding the generalist Brand Leader. When I see Brand Managers of today doing stuff, I feel sorry for them. They are lost. Brand Leaders are not designed to be experts in marketing communications, experts in product innovation and experts in selling the product. You are trained to be a generalist, knowing enough to make decisions, but not enough to actually do the work. Find strength being the least knowledgeable person in every room you enter.

  • We don’t make the products.
  • We don’t make the packaging.
  • We don’t make the ads.
  • We don’t buy the media.
  • We don’t hire the front-line staff.
  • We don’t sell the products.
  • We don’t do the accounting.
  • We don’t really do anything.
  • But we do touch everything.
  • And yet, we make every decision

As Marketers, our only greatness comes from inspiring experts to reach for their own greatness, and to apply it on our brand.

To get better, it is time Brand Leaders step back and let the creativity unfold. Find comfort in ambiguity.

It is okay to know exactly what you want, but you should never know until the moment you see it. As the client, I like to think of marketing execution like the perfect gift that you never thought to buy yourself. How we engage our experts can either inspire greatness or crush the spirit of creativity. Experts would prefer to be pushed than held back. The last thing experts want is to be asked for their expertise and then told exactly what to do. There is a fine line between rolling up the sleeves to work alongside the experts and pushing the experts out of the way. It is time to step back and assume your true role as the Brand Leader. It is a unique skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide, without any expertise at all. Brand Leaders need to rediscover the lost art of doing nothing. 

Here are the 8 secrets for getting better Advertising:

  1. Determine if the strategy can be executed. Develop a brand concept you know is motivating to consumers, with rational and emotional benefits, plus support points.
  2. Tighten your brief as much as you can. Narrow the target, add engaging insights that tell their story. Focus on the desired consumer response before deciding what your brand should say. Focus on one message.
  3. Make it personal. Meet the creative team before the first creative meeting to connect, align them with your vision and inspire them to push for great work.
  4. Lower the pressure. Hold casual tissue sessions to narrow solutions before going to scripts. Work off line or behind the scenes.
  5. Stay big picture at creative meetings. Avoid getting into little details. Do that after the meeting. When giving direction, avoid giving your own solutions and but rather try to create a “new box” for the creative team to figure out the solutions.
  6. Take creative risks. Build your career by being the one willing to stand out by being different. Make the ad you want to look back on with pride.
  7. Manage your boss at every stage. Early on, sell them, on your vision what you want. Then be willing to fight for great work at every step of the process.
  8. Be your agency’s favorite client. Be the client they “want to” work on instead of being the one they “have to” work on your business. It really matters.

To get better, Brand Leaders need to stay focused on your vision at every stage, always inspire and yet challenge.

 

Here’s a powerpoint presentation on how to get better at Marketing Execution, looking at both the creative and media.

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

 

Strategy choices to engage your consumers and tighten bond

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The engagement strategy is a smart way for you to bridge your thinking as you move from brand plans towards marketing execution. Before you know the actions you should be taking, you need to know how important is the decision to consumers and the level of involvement for your consumers in the purchase or usage of the brand? To create a tighter bond with consumers, engagement strategy leaves you with two choices; to drive up the importance of the decision or to drive up the involvement of your consumers.

Strategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

Looking at the grid above, we look at inolvement and importance, to discover four types of brands: indulgence, high profile, commodities and essentials. You must understand that the grid lays out where the brand naturally sits, helps determine the challenge of where to move next. Your marketing efforts will either work to drive up consumer involvement or increase the importance for the purchase decision.

Commodities

Commodity type brands are relatively low in importance for consumers, and they have a low consumer involvement in the purchase decision. These are everyday consumer household items, day-to-day staples, or grocery items where the product differentiation is marginal. In my consumer packaged goods career, we used to joke that, “Our role is to make a mountain out of a mole hill,” which means we make small differences seem really important to consumers.

Strategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

Driving up involvement is harder for these brands than ever before. These low involvement brands thrived with TV ads, because the interruptive nature of TV enabled them to break through the clutter with their message. With today’s media options, there are less interruptive choices, the associative nature of today’s media options rewards high profile brands to gain attention, but harder for the low involvement brands. It is harder for a laundry detergent to get people to visit their website or Facebook page than it was to air three TV ads an hour to drive home their brand message. This puts even more pressure on the brands to build engaging stories. The most successful brands have used consumer insights to connect, a compelling brand purpose to enhance their brand story, and emotional benefits to drive up the consumer involvement.

To drive up the importance, brands have to elevate the consumer problem to make it highly personal. Find the consumer’s pain points and turn it into an “enemy” that you can attack. For the solution, you can deploy experts to speak on the brand’s behalf or use social media to leverage loyal brand fans to influence their network on the brand’s behalf.

 Just because the brand is naturally a commodity does not mean it has to get stuck there. For instance, the Dove brand is a classic case of a commodity brand that has driven up both importance and involvement. Dove has turned a simple bar of soap into a statement about real beauty with a stated vision that they hope beauty can become a source of confidence instead of a source of anxiety. This emotional brand purpose drives up the importance of the cause, and the bond it has created with the brand drives up the involvement of the consumers who believes in that cause. For decades, Dove had to drive a functional product oriented message behind “ph-balance”, but the brand never found any magic until they launched the “Real Beauty” campaign.

Essentials

Essentials are those brands that have high importance in the consumer’s life, such as healthcare, banking, insurance, supplies, or computer software. They are important enough that consumers cannot live without them, but they are rather boring categories where consumers give them very little thought.. These brands struggle to capture and engage consumers. To drive up consumer involvement, they need to move from product features to consumer benefits. These essential brands need to shift their brand communications away from talking about what the brand does and start to talk about what the consumer gets and how the brand makes the consumer feel.

Strategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

Google has used highly emotional advertising with rich storylines that helps turn a potentially boring search engine into an emotional experience consumers cannot live without. With the “Paris” TV ad that aired during the Super Bowl, Google told a romantic story of a boy who went to study in Paris, met a girl, then got a job in Paris, got married, and had a baby. The entire story is told through searching with Google in each moment of the story. Google tells another story out of India of two elderly friends, one a Hindu from India and the other a Muslim from Pakistan, who have lost contact since the partition of India in 1947. The ad shows how the grand daughter uses Google to plan a surprise reunion between the two gentlemen. She was able to find her grandfather’s friend, reach out to his grandson, book a flight and reunite the two. These brand stories are great way to show how involved Google is in the real lives of consumers.

Indulgence Brands

Indulgence brands generate high involvement with consumers, but are considered relatively low in importance to the consumer’s life. The indulgence brands include confectionary, fast food, perfume, beer or coffee brands. These are impulse items with lots of brand switching. The best indulgence brands drive importance by connecting to the emotions of a particular moment of the consumer’s life, either to become part of the day or life stage. These brands have to maintain the high involvement levels to stay within the consumer’s consideration set. They use mass media, social presence, lifestyle marketing, and a “be where they are” media approach.

Strategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

While Disney World is an indulgence brand for families, they do an amazing job in driving up their importance by creating memories for your child’s life. Events like the “Princess breakfast” are purely magical to children.

High Profile Brands

High profile brands are both high in consumer involvement and importance. These are typically badge products such as clothing, cell phones, computers, make up, sports teams, restaurants, or cars. These brands have to consistently nail the brand promise, the brand story, innovation, the purchase moment, and the experience. Any inconsistency in the delivery of the brand will cast doubt to the base of brand lovers.

Strategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

If you want to see how engaged the Ferrari brand lovers are with the brand, go to any Formula One race and you will be in shock at the passion of Ferrari fans. The annual Ferrari Advertising budget is $0. They spend every marketing dollar on the Formula One race.

How to Write Smart Strategic Objective Statements

Brand Leaders need to know how to write a smart strategic objective statement that will provide the necessary clear marching orders that everyone who works on the brand can follow. The reason why I put so much emphasis asking the right questions is that it will lead to a much smarter strategic objective statement as the answer to that question.

Strategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

With the example above, there are four common elements to a smart strategy objective statement:

  1. A smart strategic objective statement must have a focal point, which is the breakthrough point where the brand will exert pressure to create an impact. In this case the focal point is on the loyal consumers.
  2. A strategic objective statement must specifically calls out the strategic program with clear marching orders to the team, leaving no room for doubt, confusion or hesitation. In this case, the VIP consumer experience.
  3. A smart strategic objective statement should call out a specific desired market impact. Which key stakeholder in the market will you attempt to move, whether it is consumers, channels, competitors or influencers? In this case, the desired impact is to turn the consumer’s regular usage into a higher frequency ritual.
  4. A smart strategic objective statement have a specific performance result, linking the market impact to a specific result on the brand, either making the brand more powerful or wealthier. In this case creating a tighter bond with consumers, which will lead to more power over the consumers.

 

Strategic Thinking Engagement StrategyEvery smart strategic objective statement must include all four elements of focus, strategic program, market impact and the expected performance result. This unique strategic model will force you to pick answers for each of these four elements, and help you bring those answers into a strategy statement with crystal clear marching orders for those who will follow the Brand Plan.

How to Write Strategic Objective Statements for Engagement StrategyStrategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

  1. Focus on either increasing the involvement of consumers or increasing the importance of the purchase.
  2. Deploy brand resources against a key strategic program, one of Advertising, Public Relations, Key Influencers, Social Media or packaging.
  3. Achieve a market impact that tightens the bond with consumers, moving them along the Brand Love Curve, moving from Indifferent to Like It, to Love It and to Beloved.
  4. Achieve a performance result that leverages the increased consumer engagement, either driving one of the 8 power drivers or one of the 8 profit drivers.

Examples of engagement strategy statementsStrategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

  • Increase consumer involvement (a) using breakthrough Advertising to help the ‘Real Beauty’ message gain attention (b) to create a base of loyal Dove brand lovers (c) doubling the brand’s market share (d).
  • Increase the importance of Dove’s ‘confidence’ message (a) leveraging social media (b) to build a base of brand lovers (c) who will follow Dove into new categories (d)

Below is our workshop we run to help Brand Leaders think strategically. 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant