The brand leader must manage every single element of the brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers
brand idea

Many non-marketers believe marketing is all about logos and advertising. They don’t realize is that when marketing is done right, the brand leader should drive everything in the company. The brand idea should drive the brand positioning, strategic plan, consumer experience, product innovation, brand story, channel management, and business results. While we don’t do any of the work surrounding the brand, we should be involved in every decision.

There are some companies who are sales led. The problem is when each sales rep uses their own message to sell. There’s no consistency in building a reputation you can own. You should use a brand idea to steer your sales team with a consistent message.

There are some companies who are product led. The problem is they start with the product and then try to make it work with consumers. It’s better to make what consumers want, rather than make consumers want what you make. The brand idea should steer those in product development on what fits with the brand and consumers.

Some days in marketing it is hard to figure out whether if we don’t do anything, or we do everything. Yes, there is always an expert covering off every aspect of that specific task. However, you have to inspire that expert and then make every decision for that expert.

It is the brand idea that 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. Everyone should be looking to the brand idea to guide and focus their decisions.

 

 

Brand idea

Your brand idea should drive all consumer touchpoints

There are five main touchpoints that 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.

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 usage into a consumer experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of the consumer’s day. The brand idea guides everyone who works on the brand to deliver great experiences.

brand idea map

 

Use your brand idea to steer everything you do

As the brand leader, you are the custodian of that brand idea and need to make sure everyone in the organization is following and use it to drive every major element of your brand. As the owner of that brand idea, your role as the marketer sits at the center of this hub and spoke structure and you must drive each element of the brand: 

The brand leader should manage the brand strategy

The brand leader must manage the strategic plan that will steer your business, in both the short and long term outlook. Use an annual brand plan to make decisions for the upcoming year and a brand strategy roadmap to guide the longer term choices for the next 5 years. Always write the plan in a way that everyone can follow. We show you how to build your brand vision, purpose and values that should last 5-10 years. We then show how to map out the key issues, strategies, and tactics. Click this link to learn how to write the brand strategy roadmap: How to write your brand strategy roadmap And, to read more on how to build your annual brand plan, click: How to write your brand plan

Figure out the brand positioning

Your role as a brand leader is to figure out a brand positioning statement that will motivate consumers and be ownable for your brand. Start by defining your consumer target, then use our cheat sheets to figure out the functional and emotional benefits you deliver, and the reasons to believe that support the brand positioning. To read more on brand positioning, click: How to build your brand positioning statement

Consumer Centricity

As the marketer, you have to take responsibility for staying in touch and maintaining the relationship with consumers. Invest in market research to find ways to listen and observe so you can adjust to the changing needs of consumers. You should be listening for the voice of the consumer, to use their own words within your work. Continue to invest in tracking consumers and gathering consumer insights. It is crucial to building a consumer profile: Building your ideal consumer profile

Build a culture behind the brand

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.

Drive the innovation

As the brand leader, you need to work with the product development team to push and steer the innovation process. The brand idea must drive the innovation, and stay on strategy with the long-range brand strategy roadmap. The innovation will be driven by brainstorming to identify new opportunities to get a continuous pipeline of ideas, then an assessment tool to make a go/no-go decision, followed by go-to-market planning and execution. It’s crucial the brand leader oversees the entire process, and be involved to move things along throughout each stage.

new product development

Many times, the product people will be much more technical than you. Use your advantage of knowing your customer, to work with them to determine how their ideas can be translated into more consumer-focused ideation.

Run the business performance

As the brand leader, you own the P&L and should be doing everything you can to drive revenue and profit. You should be continuously tracking the in-market performance including market share, brand funnel performance, and the individual execution performance tracking. Internally, the brand leader should own the sales forecasting, cost management, and pricing. You have to understand every component of the P&L because you own it. Here’s a link to an article I wrote on how to do a quick dissection of your brand’s profit statement. How to manage your brand’s profitability

A bad marketer hangs onto their budget just for the sake of it; while the best brand leaders make investment decisions thinking of both the short-term and long-term performance of the brand. Here’s a good story for you on how to create a monthly report to track your brand consumption and brand shipments: Monthly Brand Report

Partner with the sales team on channel management

Brand leaders should work side-by-side with the sales team to manage the consumer through the purchase moment. The brand plan should guide the sales team on specific strategy and goals. Given sales owns the selling execution, you must gain the sales team’s alignment and buy-in on the best ways to execute your brand’s strategy through direct selling, retailer management, and e-commerce options. The programs include pricing, distribution focus, shelf management, promotional spending, customer marketing, customer analytics, and specific promotional tools.channel management

Use a “triple win” to find the ideal retail programs, which match up with wins for your channel customer, your shared consumer, and your brand. Marketers must understand that sales leaders work through relationships, and need to balance the strategies of their customer with the desired strategies of your brand. Your channel customers are trying to win in their market, satisfying a base of their own consumers through your brands, while battling competitors who you may also be going through that customer. Your most successful programs will provide a win for your channel customer, as you will get much more support for your program.

The brand leader decides on pricing

  • Price increase: Simply put, brands can execute a price increase when the market or consumers allow the brand to do so. A beloved brand will have an easier time pushing through a price increase as it can use the power of its brand versus consumers, competitors, or channels. When pushing a price increase through retail channel partners, brands usually require proof it will work or that costs have gone up. Factors that help the brand story include the health of the brand and market.  
  • Price decrease: Use this tactic when battling a competitor, in reaction to sluggish economic conditions or retail channel pressure. You can also use an aggressive price decrease when you have a cost advantage, whether that’s manufacturing, materials or distribution. When you have that cost advantage, it may make sense to deploy a lower price to deplete the resources of your competitor.

The brand leader manages the advertising process

While most non-marketers believe the marketer’s job is all about advertising, I would estimate that advertising usually takes up only 10-20% of a given marketing role. It would be good for advertising agencies to know this, which could explain a lot of what their client is going through. Aside from launching a new product, running an advertising campaign is one of the more complex projects you manage. Here’s an article on how to manage the entire advertising process from start to finish:  Advertising process

Advertising Process

Challenge yourself to get better at advertising  

If you realized that how you show up as a client was the most significant factor in getting better advertising, do you think you would show up differently? If so, then show up right.  

Be one of your agency’s favorite clients. Bring a positive spirit that inspires everyone to want to work on your brand and never treat them like they have to work on your business.

Stay focused on one target, one strategy, one benefit behind one brand idea. Avoid the “just in case list” where you add “one more thing.” The best advertising is like a bullhorn in a crowd. The worst advertising is like a cluttered bulletin board where you can’t read anything.

When building a creative brief or providing feedback, resist the temptation to provide your own creative ideas or recommend changes. When you are dealing with an expert, give them your problems, not your solutions.

Here’s an article on how to make advertising decisions.

How to make advertising decisions

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

McDonald’s creates their own system of traffic signs out of the golden arches

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

McDonald’s outdoor ads have added to our traffic signs around the world. They have taken a part of the iconic golden arches and turned into direction signs.

McDonald's outdoor ads

 

 

The other day, I saw one of these outdoor McDonald’s ads and it captured me right away. And, I knew the brand and I wanted McDonald’s fries right now!!! Today, I saw the whole system of signs and I am completely blown away. I must say it was one of the most brilliant executions I have seen in a while. I had one of those why didn’t I think of this?” moments. I am jealous. I wish I made this. And, those are the natural signals of when you know you have made great work. Congratulations to Cossette Agency.

 

  • I love the simplicity of using the brand’s logo.
  • The potential consistency across cities and countries would make it instantly recognizable and ownable for the brand.
  • It will have the ability to tempt consumers, as it will be one more visual triggers of desire for the brand.
  • Wow. Nice job McDonald’s.

And now, you owe it to us to get this in 80 countries fast. Go.

 

Here’s a 45-second video to showcase the outdoor system.

The smart and creative thinking behind great advertising

The best advertising must balance being creatively different with being strategically smart. Find your sweet spot for where the work is different and smart.

Creative Advertising Execution

When ads are smart but not different, they get lost in the clutter. It is natural for marketers to tense up when the creative work ends up being “too different.” In all parts of the business, marketers are trained to look for past proof as a sign something will work. However, when it comes to advertising, if the ads start off too similar to what other brands have already done, then the advertising will be at risk of boring your consumers, so you never stand out enough to capture their attention. Push your comfort with creativity and take a chance to ensure your ad breaks through.

When ads are different but not smart, they will entertain consumers, but do nothing for your brand. You need advertising that is smart enough to trigger the desired consumer response to match your brand strategy.

To read our story “The 10 steps of the creative advertising process” click on this link below:

 

At Beloved Brands, we run workshops to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To see a WORKSHOP ON MARKETING EXECUTION, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

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 Profile

How to handle yourself at the creative advertising meeting

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

creative advertising meetingWhen you are in your next creative advertising meeting, you should think fast with your instincts, while trying to represent your consumer. The best brand leader plays a most crucial role in the creative advertising process. While they are not designed to be experts, they need to know enough to make advertising decisions, but never enough to do the work.

View the advertising through the eyes of your consumer. Try to see the work how they would see it. I would not even let my agency do a set-up to the ads. I said, “Just show me the work as though I see it on TV.” I felt any setup or explanation clouded my judgment and impacted my ability to use my instincts.

As you are sitting in that decision-making hot seat at a creative meeting, here are some challenging questions to ask yourself:

1. What does your gut instinct say?

The reality of a marketing job is you might be coming into the creative meeting from a 3-hour forecasting meeting or deep-dive financial review, or you just got back from working in the lab with scientists on a new ingredient. It is not easy to change speeds as you head into a creative meeting.

Relax, find your creative energy, let it soak in and find those instincts. I created a “gut instincts checklist” to help prompt you for when you need your instincts.

Creative Advertising Execution

2. Do you love it?

If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it? If you “sorta like” it, then it will be “sorta okay” in the end. But if you love it, you’ll go the extra mile and make it amazing. Ask if you would you be proud of this as your legacy.

3. Is the advertising on strategy?

Slow down, and find some thinking time after the meeting. In a quiet place alone, make sure it delivers on what you wrote in your strategy documents. Go back through the brief to make sure the advertising will deliver the desired response, and the strategic objective statement you wrote in the brand communications plan. One caution is not to use the extra time to over-think the advertising and talk yourself out of a good ad that works.

4. How big is the creative idea?

Is the creative idea big enough to last 5-10 years? Will the idea work across various mediums (paid, earned, social) across all distribution and the entire product line? Think of being so proud of leaving a legacy for your successor to help think about the longer term.

Making advertising decisions

At the decision point, you have three choices:

        • Approve
        • Reject
        • Change

From my experience, brand leaders rarely approve creative ideas outright. There also seems a reluctant or fear to reject outright. So marketers mistakenly assume their role is to change the ads. I see too many come to the creative meeting with a pen and paper and start to write feverishly all the recommended changes they have for each ad. The problem is if we marketers are not talented enough to come up with the ad in the first place, why do we think we are talented enough to change the ad? You are a generalist, surrounded by experts. Use your experts.

Creative Advertising Execution

Next time you go into a creative meeting, stop giving the creative team your solutions, and give them a new problem you are seeing and then let the creative team figure out the solutions. If the creative brief is the original “box” for the creative team to figure out the ideal solution, then use your feedback at the creative meeting to create a “new box” for the creative team figure out a new solution.

Use your feedback to challenge and create a new problem for your agency to figure out the solution.

Challenge yourself to get better at advertising 

  1. If you realized that how you show up as a client was the most significant factor in getting better advertising, do you think you would show up differently? If so, then show up right. 
  2. Are you one of your agency’s favorite clients? Bring a positive spirit that inspires everyone to want to work on your brand and never treat them like they have to work on your business.
  3. Do you stay focused on one target, one strategy, one benefit behind one brand idea? Avoid the “just in case list” where you add “one more thing.” The best advertising is like a bullhorn in a crowd. The worst advertising is like a cluttered bulletin board where you can’t read anything.
  4. When building a creative brief or providing feedback, do you resist the temptation to provide your own creative ideas or recommend changes? When you are dealing with an expert, give them your problems, not your solutions.
  5. Are you the type of brand leader who is willing to fight anyone in the way of great work? Even your boss? When you do, you will start to see everyone on the team fight for you. 
  6. Do you resist temptation in approving advertising that is “just OK” and “feels safe”? What signal do you think it sends everyone involved? You have to LOVE your advertising, and you should never settle for OK. 

To read our story “The 10 steps of the creative advertising process” click on this link below:

How to lead the creative advertising process

At Beloved Brands, we run workshops to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To see a WORKSHOP ON MARKETING EXECUTION, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

 

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.

 

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 marketers should deploy the right leadership style for the right brand situation

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Situational leadership in marketing means identifying the right situation for when to be a strategic thinker, an instinctual thinker ora task master. The challenge is we each bring a natural style and have to learn the other two with experience. It is all about situational leadership.

situational leadership

 

Strategic Thinkers

Strategic leaders see ‘what-if’ type questions before they look for potential solutions. They are able to map out a range of decision trees that intersect, by imagining how events will play out in the future. They think of every option before taking action.

The trick to being strategic is to think slowly with strategy. If you move too quickly on brand strategy, you will be unable to see the insights beneath the surface, and you risk solving the wrong problem.

5 ways to slow your brain down to think strategically

The risk to just deploying the one leadership style is if strategic thinkers just think too long, they spiral around, unable to decide, and miss the opportunity window.

  1. Find your own thinking time. Walks at lunch or a drive somewhere to get away from it all. Block hour-long “thinking meetings” with yourself.
  2. Organize your week to fit your thinking pace. Talk “big ideas” on a Friday morning so you can take the weekend to think. Schedule quick updates on Monday afternoon that clears your mind for the week.
  3. Do the deep thinking before the decision time comes. Always be digging deep into the analytics to stay aware, prepare yourself, no matter your level.
  4. Next time in a meeting, ask the best questions. Too many leaders try to impress everyone with the best answers. Next time, try to stump the room with the best questions that slow down your team and force them to think.
  5. Proactively meet your partner teams. Get to know the needs of your sales teams or agency account leaders, and not wait for a problem or conflict. Come to them proactively with possible solutions so you both win.

Instinctual Thinkers

Instinctual leaders jump right in because their gut already sees the right answer solution. They move fast, using emotional, impulse and intuitive gut feel. They choose emotion over logic. This “gut feel” fosters high creativity.

The trick to be instinctual, you must think quickly on execution. Without intuitive freedom, you will move too slowly, overthink and second-guess yourself. You risk destroying the creativity of the right solution.

5 ways to speed up your brain to think instinctually

  1. Have fun, and be in the moment: Relax, smile, have fun, stay positive. If you get too tense, stiff, too serious, it can impact the team negatively.
  2. Focus on first impressions. Don’t let the strategy get in your way of seeing what you think of the creativity. This allows you to see it how your consumer might see it. You still have time to think strategically about it after your instincts.
  3. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. You have to represent your consumer to the brand. Try to react and think as they might. Learn to observe and draw insights.
  4. Do not make up concerns that are not there. While you need to be smart, don’t cast every possible doubt that can destroy creativity. Too many brand leaders destroy creativity one complaint at a time.
  5. Let it simmer for a while, before rejecting. You always have the option to reject an idea. Why not let it breathe a little, see it you can make it even better. If it gets better, you win. If not, you can still reject it, without any risk.

Task Masters

Task masters stay in control to get things done, keep things on time and on budget. They are always in full control, organized and on time. They never lose sight of the end goal, efficiently knock down roadblocks, to keep everyone else on track with time and budgets.

To be a successful task master,  it is to realize there is a business to run. Without staying focused on the end goal, strategic thinking and creative instincts are wasted, resulting in missed opportunities.

You can overly rely on the task master, the risk is you end up with hollow thinking, OK creativity and OK business results.

5 ways to be more of a task master

  1. Set high standards for you and the team: Hold the team to consistently high standards of work in analytics, strategic thinking, planning and execution in the market (advertising, innovation, purchase moment and brand experience)
  2. People leadership: Provide a team vision, consistently motivate others, be genuinely and actively interested in helping your team manage their careers.
  3. Lead the process: Organize, challenge and manage the processes so your team can focus on thinking, planning and executing. Guide the team to get things done on time. on budget and on forecast.
  4. Hit deadlines: Never look out of control or sloppy. Marketers have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other. In Marketing, there are no extensions, just missed opportunities.
  5. Know your business: Don’t get caught off-guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.

Finding that balance

As a leader, it is crucial for you to deploy the right leadership style in the moment, to be able to maneuver. Your brain should operate like a race car driver, slow in the corners and fast on the straight away. Change brain speeds, think slowly when faced with difficult strategy and think quickly with your best instincts on execution.

When you are in a team situation, try to recognize the natural styles of each of your team members. Make sure the team is well balanced, to ensure someone is the thinker, someone has the intuition to break through the clutter and then someone is the task master. Appreciate what each person brings to the table, leverage their natural strengths and ensure you be honest about your own style.

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

 

 

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.

competitors

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 playbooks, Beloved Brands and B2B Brands

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

Beloved Brands marketing model
  • 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

 

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

Non-Marketing people really need to stop defining what marketing people do.

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

I suppose that everyone who has a TV and can critique Super Bowl ads or those with a Twitter account thinks they can now say they are a marketer expert. Sadly, we have let far too many people use the word “MarketingMarketing”or “Brand” in their title. The commentary that I see coming from non marketers is borderline cringe-worthy or hilarious. I have to tell you that the comments are silly.

When I read, “Marketers need to think more about the consumer” I think you’ve never met a real marketer. The best marketers starting doing that around 1915. I guess somehow this is now popular among non-marketers.

When I hear,  “Marketers should analyze data”, again, I’m thinking what incompetent marketers have you been hanging around with. That’s been a major part of the job since 1950. Sure, big data. But I have been working any data from share report data to Ipsos tracking data to weekly Walmart sales tracking data.

Do you know what marketers do?

When I read, “The CEO should be in charge of the brand”, I think “Well then the CEO should be in charge of the IT system”. Sure, in charge, but they should be smart enough to delegate to the experts who will make their brand stronger.

From my experience, the best marketing led organizations have bottom up recommendations, empowering the brand manager to tell their directors what they want to do, who then support them in moving that up to the VP and President.

The worst organizations are when the CEO walks down the hall and asks “Why are we not on Instagram? My 15-year-old daughter was just showing me how cool it is this weekend”. This is likely the reason why the average tenure of a CMO is under 24 months at this point. They are likely sports coaches, hired to be fired, by the impatience of getting results.

When I hear, “Marketing needs to be more than just advertising” once again, you just don’t understand the job….typically advertising is 10-15% of the job.The best marketers determine the strategy, figure out the brand promise, brand communication, product innovation, purchase moment and consumer experience…they touch all, decide all, but they let their experts run each of those touch points.

Marketers don’t just “do marketing”

I am glad so many want to be in Marketing. But you really should have to earn your way into it. Go interview for a job, get rejected a few times, push to really get in there and then learn like ton for a few years. I spent 20 years in marketing. I could not believe how much I learned  in my first five years, then even more in the next five, then way more in the following five and absolute insane amount in those last five years. I’ve now been a consultant for over five years and I swear I know twice as much as I learned in the first 20.

Marketing is not just an activity. The best marketers have to think, define, plan, execute and analyze, using all parts of your brain, your energy and your creativity.

OK, my rant is over.

 

To learn more, here’s a presentation on how to create a beloved 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

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Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you need our help, email me at 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.

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Can Whole Foods survive? I hope so. But, unless they change, I doubt it.

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Whole Foods has lost 14 million customers the past 2 years. The people they irritated the most: their core customers who used to love the brand. Amazon, who recently bought them, sure has their work cut out to fix what has been messed up. Here are the four main reasons why customers have left Whole Foods.

  1. They got rid of freshly prepared market and used pre-prepared foods,that upset their core customers.
  2. They now carry “unhealthy” and non-organics products such as Cliff Bars, that upset their core customers.
  3. They desperately launched discount “365” brand, did nothing for their core customers.
  4. Mainstream retailers offered same organic products at lower prices. Their non-core customers left Whole Foods.

Notice a trend? Whole Foods does not seem to care about their care customers.

Would you invest in Whole Foods right now?

I remember 20 years ago, someone told me that Blockbuster would go bankrupt once on-line movies would take off. My immediate response was “No way!!!” I had just spent 45 minutes lined up at my local Blockbuster to rent “Usual Suspects” for the third time. How could a brand with so much demand completely fall off the face of the earth?

Now I am starting to wonder if Whole Foods will be around in 20 years? Strategic Thinking Whole Foods I sure hope so. I am a big fan of their brand and all the work they have done. Whole Foods has been the dominant player in ‘organic’ grocery stores the past 20-30 years. They have done everything right. They brought a clear brand positioning, a big idea, a fantastic culture that oozes off the walls of their stores and exhibited through every employee you engage with in the stores. They nail branding as well as Apple, Tesla or Nike. They built an army of outspoken brand fans and they are a beloved brand.

Would you invest in Whole Foods right now? Their market capitalization has fallen from $24 Billion to $9 Billion the last 2 years. None of their moves have re-assured investors that their future is bright.

Is Whole Foods a victim of their own success? 

For the past 70 years, the average grocery stores have served the local community within a 10 minutes drive, with 20,000 skus across 10 aisle grocery stores. The business model of traditional stores pumped out ridiculously high volumes at ridiculously low margins. At the retailer’s head office, the buyers had to beat down manufacturers like P&G, J&J, Coke, Kellogg’s and Kraft. They pushed high listing fees and high trade spend to get any displays or flyer ads. Even after all this work, Grocery stores traditionally make only 20-25% gross margins and then make only 2-4% operating profits. Over the last 10 years Kroger has averaged 22% gross margins and 2.7% operating margins. These are very typical numbers for a grocery retailer.

Whole Foods started as a rebellious disruptor to the grocery category.

Strategic Thinking Whole Foods Rebel BrandWhole Foods came along and figured out they could sell organic raspberries at $5.99  instead of $2.99 for normal raspberries and they could sell organic bacon for $9.99 instead of 3.99. They knew that not everyone would pay, but enough would. Instead of high volume, low margin, they went for modest volume with a much higher margin. Whole Foods averages 35% gross margins (+13% higher than Kroger) and 5.3% operating profit (double that of Kroger).

Up until the year 2000, Whole Foods only had 100 locations, capable enough to own a niche position as a rebel brand, yet small enough to fly under the radar of the bigger grocery players. If you notice the Venn diagram to the right, rebel brands own a niche that is far enough away from the mainstream players, to avoid being seen as a direct competitor. For these rebel brands, they believe it is better to be loved by a few than tolerated by many. These brands take all that passion of their consumers and build around it. At this point, Whole Foods owned organic, and the traditional grocery stores were fine to let Whole Foods own the ‘yoga enthusiasts’.

Most brands start as a rebel brands. They win over the trend influencers, satisfying those consumers who do not want what the mainstream brands offer. The rebel brand takes the aggressive stance against the mainstream, finding flaw in the way they do business.  They stand out as a completely different and a better choice to a core group of trend influencers who are frustrated with all the competitors in the marketplace. This consumer group becomes the most motivated consumers to buy into your new idea. Rebel brands must bring these on board and use their influence on others, as the brand begins their journey from rebel brands to island brands to challenger brands and then onto the Power Player brand. Below is a chart that outlines that evolution, and you can see how to use the different consumer types from the trend influencers and early adopters at the beginning and then finding the mass audience as the brand gets bigger and more powerful.

Brand Innovation

After 2000, the move to organic foods hit a tipping point of acceptance within the mainstream audience. Whole Foods took advantage of this shift and invested in rapid expansion across North America. Whole Foods moved to the next stage of what I call the “Island Brand” stage, where you are so different you are on your own. For the health-conscience consumers, Whole Foods success left the traditional grocery stores in a position where they disconnected from what these consumers want. During this time, Whole Foods expanded from 100 to 430 stores, with forecasts of up to 1,200 stores. Whole Foods had gone from a niche player that traditional grocery brands were willing to ignore to a major threat that pushed the traditional brands to make a counter move.

Strategic Thinking Whole FoodsAs organic moved to the mainstream the traditional grocery store responded by bringing in organic foods into their stores. Most traditional grocery chains report that 25-35% of their fresh food has become organic. These grocery stores are charging 15-25% lower prices than Whole Foods, yet still loving the added margins it gives them.

Simply marketing lesson, no one will ever travel farther and pay more, for something they can get close by at a cheaper price.

As a result, Whole Foods has lost customers to the traditional players. According to Barclays analysts, “Whole Foods has lost about 14 million of its customers over the last 18 months. The magnitude of the traffic declines … is staggering. As most retailers know — once traffic has been lost, those patterns rarely reverse”. Did Whole Foods move to the mainstream too quickly, trying to use the groundswell towards organic among mass consumers to move to a challenger position?

Whole Foods next move was a dumb one.

The history of warfare can be characterized by Generals who over-reacted and under-reacted. Both would lose. Whole Foods made the poor decision to launch a lower price, lower service, and lower margin version of itself called “365”.  I always find it frustrating to watch brands who face an attack and then try to act more like the competitor attacking them, rather than backing up a bit and being themselves. When in a competitive battle, especially against those who own the traditional space who you have attacked, never act like your competitor. Instead of staying themselves, the move to “365” acts more like their competitors.

I do not believe these 365 stores can win. They are a hybrid store which is confusing. They will not attract the mainstream consumer who want their organic foods at lower prices, but still wants to buy Diet Coke and Frosted Flakes. They will not win with the core health trend influencer audience who want more, not less.

How will the 365 stores make money?  Low volume and lower margins is a recipe for bankruptcy.

If they can’t win the mass audience, do they still have the health trend influencers? 

We are seeing local healthy grocery stores pop up around North America ready to offer the health trend influencers more. Due to “costs” Whole Foods has made some moves that will irritate this audience.  They got rid of their freshly prepared market and now use pre-prepared foods. There are now swirling questions about whether their food choices are 100% organic. Whole Foods uses their own standards of judging good/bad food options. Whole FoodsAlso, Whole Foods uses national distribution on most items, not through local farmers. On top of that, Whole Foods carries fairly mainstream brand choices such as Cliff Bars with 28% sugar or Kellogg’s Special K. This confuses or frustrates the health trend setter segment who do not want to see those types of brands in their grocery store.

This leaves Whole Foods potentially without a positioning to stand behind and without a core audience to build around. When you try to be everything to anyone, you end up nothing to everyone. Whole Foods have lost who they are. They could take the advice of Oscar Wilde who once said: “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”.

The problem I see for Whole Foods is they have been spiraling downward with losing sales base, yet they seem unable or unwilling to make the right changes. I would not invest, would you?  While brands start as rebel brands, no matter what stage your brand reaches, when the world around you collapses, I recommend the best thing a brand can do is return back to the rebel status and re-start their brand. Instead of going mainstream with lower price/lower service options like the launch of their “365 store”, Whole Foods should go back to their rebellious roots and go even healthier, go even more local, add high end services back. Make it a full experience the health trend influencers want. Instead of trying to drive high volume from their current audience, they should add higher margin services. Be more like who they were 20 years ago.

When you lose your way, return to the rebel position and kick-start your brand again.

 

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on How to create beloved brands, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

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

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson