Playing to win in the right EMOTIONAL space

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

How loved is your brand?

We believe a brand’s source of power comes from the emotional feelings that it generates with consumers. In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life.

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At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It is important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand. With the power of connection, the brand can leverage that power into increased growth and profits.

Too many times, Brand Leaders ask their agency for emotional advertising, without even understanding what emotions they want. Usually the same Brand Leader is handing their agency a brief and a brand positioning statement that is strictly functional. And somewhere on that same brief, we see a very usual tone of “trusted, reliable, liked, authentic and optimistic”. You should realize that when you can’t figure out the emotional zone to play in, brands end up with these words on the brief. We will show you below that trust, smart, optimistic, liked all play in different emotional zones. When you tell the consumer too many things, they shut you out as a confused brand they can’t figure out.

Just as Brand Leaders should look to own one rational benefit, they should also own ONE emotional benefit. Before asking your agency to make you an emotional ad, do the homework to understand what emotional zone you can win.

Start with the Consumer and Map out their Emotional Insights

Beloved Brands know who their customer is and who it is not. Everything starts and ends with the Consumer in mind. To demonstrate knowledge of that target, defining consumer insights help to crystallize and bring to life the consumer you are targeting. The dictionary definition of the word Insight is “seeing below the surface”. Positioning 2016.019When insight is done right, it is what first connects us to the brand, because we see ourselves in the story. We see an ad and say “that’s me”. The best way to get consumers motivated is to tap into their need states, by understanding what frustration points they may have. We call these consumer enemies. While products solve regular problems, beloved brands beat down the enemies that torment us every day. What are your consumer’s frustration point that they feel no one is even addressing? To paint the picture of our consumer target, you should use Consumer Insights to help to crystallize and bring to life the consumer you are targeting. The dictionary definition of the word Insight is “seeing below the surface”. Too many people think data, trends and facts are insights. Facts are merely on the surface—so they miss out on the depth–you need to bring those facts to life by going below the surface and transforming the facts into insights. Insight is something that everyone already knows and comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only who felt like that”. That’s why we laugh when we see insight projected with humor, why we get goose bumps when insight is projected with inspiration and why we cry when the insight comes alive through real-life drama. When Consumer Insights are done right, we get in the shoes of the consumer by starting the insight with the word “I” and we use the voice of the consumer by putting the insight in quotes.

Finding your brand’s emotional benefit

The best way to work the Consumer Benefits Ladder is to hold a brainstorming session with everyone who works on the brand so you can:

  • Leverage all the available research to brief the team, helping define the consumer target and get all the consumer insights and need states out.
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  • List out all the features that your brand offers, and the brand assets it brings to the table. Make sure that these features are competitive advantages.
  • Find the rational benefit by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and seeing the brand features from their eyes: start asking yourself over and over “so if I’m the consumer, what do I get from that?”. Ask up to 5 times and push the answers into a richer zone.
  • Then find the emotional benefit by asking “so how does that make me feel?” As you did above, keep asking, and you’ll begin to see a deeper emotional space you can play in and own.

This tool is designed to get you out of talking about yourself (your claims) and gets you talking about what the consumer gets (the benefits)  For instance, no one really cares that a golf club has 5.7% more torque. When you ask what do i get from that, the better answers are longer drives or lower scores or winning a tournament. These are rational benefits. When you ask how does that make you feel, the emotional space is confidence and optimism. This is the emotional benefit. Below, we lay out 3 examples of how to turn your feature into a rational benefit and then an emotional benefit.

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People tend to get stuck when trying to figure out the emotional benefits. It seems that not only do consumers have a hard time expressing their emotions about a brand, but so do Brand Managers. Companies like Hotspex Research have mapped out all the emotional zones for consumers. I’m not a researcher, but if you’re interested in this methodology contact Hotspex at  Leverage this type of research and build your story around the emotions that best fit your consumer needs.  Leveraging the Hotspex work, we’ve mapped out 8 zones in a simplistic way below:

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Within each of the zones, you can find emotional words that closely align to the need state of the consumer and begin building the emotional benefits within your CVP.  It almost becomes a cheat sheet for Brand Managers to work with.  How it works is when you figure out which ONE emotional zone you think your brand can own, and just like a rational position, you can’t try to own them all.

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Examples of bringing emotion to life

If we think of the world’s leading  companies, Apple owns Freedom while Google owns Knowledge and they are at their best when they stick to those positioning statements.

Here’s how well Apple has brought “Freedom” to life.  You’ll not really hear any functional benefits within this type of Ad.  Poetry matched against the beauty of the world is a perfect demonstration of FREEDOM–making Apple seem interesting, exciting and alive.

While knowledge might sound boring, by sticking to that strategy, here’s how well Google has done. Embedded within the story line, Google is used as an enabler of knowledge–making you smarter, wiser and competent.


At Beloved Brands, we run a workshops on how to find your Brand Positioning. 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 or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.

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How severely damaged is the Toronto Maple Leafs brand?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

leafs-badI think the Leafs should be a little worried about the health of their brand. While they have been bad for the entire century so far, this year feels even more disconnected and puts them at risk, if things are not fixed. There are major signs of brand health issues, which usually shows up in advance of any issues with brand wealth. But I think with a quick shot of the optimism drug over the summer, the crazy Leaf fans will be hooked again.

Here’s the brand health issues that should raise concern:

  • Leaf game not shown on TV?  Last Saturday, Hockey Night in Canada decided not to air the Leafs game on the main network for the first time in forty years. With TV media, there are so many games on TV and on-line, that the big Saturday night game is not the same. In fact, the biggest risk now is that I can see 82 games of any team I want.  
  • No sell out? This past Monday, the Leafs failed to sell out for the first time in 15 years. While giving up a little revenue for not selling out, the bigger risk here is that if tickets are going for $30, then it takes away the mystique of going to the game. The good news is the Leafs have announced they won’t raise ticket prices. I love that they actually felt compelled enough to announce this, which shows the true power of the brand.  
  • Fans cheering for the Leafs to lose: Not only are the Leafs tanking this season to get a good draft pick, the fans are cheering for the opponents so that the Leafs do lose. If the Leafs are bad again next year, the fans may again cheer against the Leafs.  If this goes on for 5 years, do these fans go find another team?
  • Fans are mad at the current team: Fans are so enraged at the current crop of Leafs that they continue to boo the best players and have thrown sweaters on the ice in dis-respect of the team. The players took it upon themselves to “not salute the fans” as their retribution. It’s never good to go to war with the fans, when the only thing you have is fans. 

The Leafs brand is on pause this year. The fans are on hold, waiting to see what happens next. I believe if the Leafs get rid of a few players, draft a big name (even if it’s not McDavid) and get a big name coach, they would create the perception that they are moving in the right direction. As we discuss below, the Leafs are not really focused on winning the cup, but rather giving the illusion and optimism that they “could” win the cup. 

The success of the Leafs brand defies logic

When we look at the most valuable sports franchises around the world, whether it’s Ferrari, Manchester United, Real Madrid, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers or New England Patriots, they usually have one thing in common:  THEY WIN.  And in most cases, they win a lot. We’ve never really found out what happens to those brands when they lose.  And then there’s the Toronto Maple Leafs who recently joined the ranks of the most valued brands, now worth an estimated $1.2 Billion. 

  • The last time the Leafs won a hockey championship was 1967, when Lyndon Johnson was President, The Beatles were releasing the Sgt Pepper’s album and Wal-Mart only had 24 stores (all still in Arkansas). It was even 8 years before Justin Bieber’s mom would be born.
  • The Leafs have made the playoffs once since 2004. None of their current players were even in the league in 2004. And they are the only NHL team not to make the playoffs during those years.
  • There were two major work stoppages in the NHL in 2005 and 2012–one wiped out an entire season, the other a half season. In both of those years, the value of the Leafs jumped up. And yet, since 2004, the value of the Toronto Maple Leafs has gone up from $280 Million to $1.2 Billion.

So clearly for the Leafs, actually playing and winning the games doesn’t really matter to value of the Leafs brand. Yes, Apple’s market value has gone up at a faster pace, but they’ve launched iTunes, iPod, iPhone, iPad and the Macbook during that time.  

Most great brands have a vision for the future: what’s the Leafs brand vision?

Like any sports team, the Leafs will state their vision of “we want to win the Stanley Cup”. It sounds good. It’s what you’re supposed to say. Proof for what the real vision might be in the fact that for past 15 years they were owned by a pension fund and they rewarded their President financially, not for how the Leafs did on the ice, but how well the Leafs did off the ice. And now they are owned by a media conglomerate who sees the Leafs as content to get the millions of insane Leafs fans watching in person, on TV and on-line. I believe a more appropriate Brand Vision for the Leafs is “to be the most beloved sports franchise” or even a stretch “to be the most valued sports franchise in the world”. 

Does winning matter?  Yes, but it’s a strategy to help the vision of being the most loved or most valuable sports franchise. It’s the “how” you get to the vision, but not the vision itself. The hook is to appear that you are doing the right things to try to win the cup–enough to keep the fan base engaged.

Holding the Leafs up to the principles of a beloved brand

I once had an economics Professor who said “economics proves that what happens in real life can actually happen in theory”. Well, I usually use the Apple brand to prove how the theories of Beloved Brands work, but let’s take the Leafs brand on a test run and see how they line up.

First, we believe that consumers connect with brands based on a “big idea”. That’s the tough question for the Leafs: what is their big idea? Is it the heritage/history, being the home team of the biggest hockey market or the great underdog story?  At times, it’s been the “loveable losers”, where the mediocre/good players like Palmateer or Vaive become legends in the community. But that’s still not enough to make the brand that connected. The big idea during Steinbrenner’s Yankees was “we we will do whatever it takes to win–at any cost” where as the Montreal Canadiens are all about “we maintain the pride and dignity of history and we’ll do what’s right in our pursuit of victory”. It’s hard to truly see a big idea to connect with the Leafs. While most fans have this nagging feeling in the back of their mind that the Leafs will never win in their lifetime, I believe they cheer for the Leafs “to stay engaged enough just in case there is that once in a lifetime chance to win the cup”. So the Leafs are more like a potential “once in a lifetime eclipse” that fans want to see or even a lottery ticket. The only other sports brand like the Leafs are the loveable Chicago Cubs.  If the Leafs are that “eclipse”, I’ve always debated that if they ever do win the Cup, would more people keep watching or would people stop watching. The Toronto Blue Jays may prove that once they won the World Series, the Toronto fans were like “great, so what’s next” and moved on. My guess is that I’ll never know the answer to this question, as I don’t expect the Leafs to ever win the cup.  

Once you have the big idea for your brand, you need to map out the 5 Brand Connectors to help deliver that big idea: the brand promise, strategy, brand story, freshness of Innovation and a culture that helps deliver the promise.  


Arguably, the Leafs might be defying all 5 of these sources of connectivity. 

  • Brand Promise: Most beloved sports teams can say “we promise to deliver an on-field team that will always be competitive enough to win a championship”. The Yankees, Man U, Ferrari, the Canadiens and Real Madrid can easily say that. The Leafs promise to “win a championship” feels hollow. If that was their promise, the brand would be a complete failure. Fans would walk away and the value of the team would fall. Well, at least for a normal team. When fans get excited about the Leafs, the world feels better, they are happy and optimistic for the future. The real promise for the Leafs is “we’ll make you feel good even if the pursuit of victory is greater than the victory itself.” Maybe if you have that underdog spirit in your own life, you see hope in the Leafs where no one else sees hope. But the problem for this year is that when they lose, that optimism comes crashing down. A friend of mine who is a Leafs fan had a baby a few weeks ago, and posted on Facebook “when do you break it to the kid that the Leafs won’t win a Championship in his life time?” Sadly, that kid will be a Leaf fan. He now bleeds blue. And will pay thousands of dollars towards the leafs coffers over his life time. 
  • Strategy: In terms of players, the Leafs have relied the last 15 years on signing free agents. But in managing the brand, they focus on hyping up the players, they build up the optimism at the beginning of each year and keep the fan base engaged with constant communication and stay reasonably competitive to at least give hope for getting in the playoffs. The Leafs manage to keep the fan base hooked by constantly feeding them optimism. The problem this year is that they’ve fallen so far out of the playoffs the talk of re-build has the fans confused. Those players they’ve hyped turned out to be jerks, who won’t salute the fans, refuse interviews and don’t even try on the ice. It’s hard for the Leafs to hype players that aren’t well liked. 
  • Brand Story: As I was growing up, the Leafs always successfully connected the past (Johnny Bower, Bobby Baun or Daryl Sitler) to the current team. The stories stressed the values of toughness, hard work and how the underdog always over-achieved in the face of adversity. That story fit nicely to the Leaf teams of the 90s with Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark and Felix Potvin who went to the semi finals in back to back years. However, today’s current Leaf teams are the opposite:  over-hyped, over-paid and under-achieving players like Kessel and Phaneuf, certainly not aligned to the values of toughness and hard work. 
  • Freshness: For a sports team, freshness comes through the signing of new players and then building optimism around those players. The problem is the salary cap and the current roster has the team trapped. The tanking to get a draft pick has been a good strategy as it will provide someone (McDavid or even Strome) that they can build around. You will see this summer that the Leafs will build all the optimism of a rebuild around the youthful team. And fans will buy into it.   
  • Experience: There are only two ways to experience the brand–either in person or on TV. Going to a Leaf game has a buzz and excitement to it. The tickets are usually so expensive that it is so rare for the average person to get to go. The TV games are rooted in history: “Hockey Night in Canada” at 7pm has been one of the highest rated TV shows since the 1950s. And so this year, we’ve now seen two things happen. Last Saturday, for the first time since the early 1970s, the Leafs were not shown on Hockey Night in Canada, with the CBC choosing the Montreal Canadiens game. It’s all about ratings, even though the network that shows the games owns the Leafs. And this past Monday, the Leaf game wasn’t a sell out, and on StubHub you can easily get tickets for $25. So while this is your chance to finally go to a game, no one really wants to even go.

How the Leafs make money

Like any brand, there are really only 8 ways to make more money:  premium pricing, trading up on price, lower cost of goods, efficient spending, stealing share. getting loyal users to use more, entering new markets and finding new uses for the brand.


Pricing: Ticket prices for the Leafs are the highest in the NHL–an average of $375 over 42 home games, which is three times the average ticket price for Detroit Red Wings or even six times the price for Tampa Bay. Getting tickets to a game is nearly impossible for the average fan. Every game is a sell-out. It’s a 40 year wait for Leaf seasons tickets. These end up in people’s wills. The ACC also uses strong luxury box and platinum ticket sales to trade the business consumers up on price–so not only are they paying $1,000, they also have to order enough food and drinks to support a luxury box. If the Leafs look at an extended downturn on play or even a 5-year turnaround, it likely won’t impact average price but it may impact the # of sell outs–especially as the Leafs just experienced their first non-sellout in 15 years.  

Costs: Control of costs works in the favour of the Leafs. The NHL has a salary cap that holds teams to $60 Million per year, which is 6% of the team’s brand value. For the other hockey teams worth $200 Million, that’s 30% of their brand value. That’s a huge competitive advantage for the Leafs–still defies why they can’t win. There’s no real need for “marketing costs” as every game is on TV, with normal exceptionally strong ratings. While the ratings are only in Canada, they are such a dominant ‘country brand’ that it makes the local market all of Canada, which means it has access to 30 Million people.The Leafs receive added earned media with 2 sports TV stations, 3 radio stations and 3 major Newspapers constantly covering every move the team makes. Both sports stations hold a daily live show at lunch time. 

Share: The Leafs dominate the media landscape but end up sharing that revenue with the NHL. It’s estimated that 70% of the league revenues come from Canada–my guess is that most of that comes from the Leafs. For the Leafs merchandise sales are very strong. The Leafs announced it was changing its third jersey to be a replica of the 1967 jersey. Which means all those fans have to go out and drop another $129 on a new jersey. This past year, the Leafs have added a sports bar to the ACC, just outside the arena that has hundreds of TVs and seating for two thousand people. With a roster currently filled with unpopular players, the Leafs need a few popular players for the fans to put a name on the back to really drive up the merchandise sales.

Market Size: The Leafs have expanded the size of the market by driving sponsorship and even creating Leafs TV. The team’s sponsorship drive is incredible–carrying an astounding 50+ sponsors on its roster–including separating out the banking category into Core Banking, Wealth Banking, Credit Card banking, which allows them to get money from three separate banks. Sponsorship is a money machine. The Leafs TV expands the brand for the most loyal followers to connect even more. The Leafs have also launched a bar attached to their stadium that holds another 2,200 fans who drink and eat during the 2 and 1/2 hour game. If the crowd shrinks or the Leafs lose early each time, this bar will be clearing out by the 2nd period. 

Income statement: In 2011 with the world facing a global recession, following up on a 29th place finish in the standings, the Leafs revenue went up ELEVEN PERCENT!!!  And then they raised ticket prices. Because of the player strike a few years ago, player costs have gone down from $69 million to $57 million. Revenue up, costs down–that’s a P&L the people of Price Waterhouse dream about. A lot of the value is now connected to how much money will be made in the future.  The NHL just signed a 10 year labor contract giving the Leafs cost certainty and a 5 year media deal giving the Leafs revenue certainty. While I still don’t think the Leafs will win a championship in the next 10 years, I would bet they will hit $2 Billion.  

It’s not easy being a Leaf Fan. Yet like a drug, it’s not easy to stop being a Leaf fan.



To see a more in depth presentation please read the powerpoint presentation below which is a Workshop to show brand leaders how to create a beloved brand so they can generate more power and profit for their brand.

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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


You deserve better advertising

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Slide1While that’s a very famous tongue-in-cheek quote from David Ogilvy, it should be a kick in the butt to clients. It suggests that if you suck as a client, you will get advertising that sucks. It’s likely true. As I’m coaching clients on advertising, I like to ask a very difficult question: If you knew that being a better client got you better advertising, would you actually be able to show up better? When it comes to advertising, the role of the Brand Leader is to consistently get good advertising on the air, and equally consistently keep bad advertising off the air. So what is it that makes some brand leaders good at advertising?

Before we figure what makes someone good at advertising, let’s figure out what makes someone suck

Theory #1: you blame yourself

  • You never find your comfort zone: You are convinced you’re not good at advertising. No experience, feel awkward or had a bad experience. You think you’re strategic, not tactical. You are skeptical, uptight, too tough and too easily annoyed.
  • You don’t know if it’s really your place to say something: You figure the ad agency is the expert—that’s why we pay them—so you give them a free reign (aka no direction). Or worse, you give them the chance to mess up, and blame them later.
  • You settle for something you hate, because of time pressure, or you don’t know why: You don’t really love it, but it seems ok for now. The agency says if we don’t go for it now, we’ll miss our air date and have to give up our media to another brand.
  • You can’t sell it in to management: you need to make sure if it’s the right thing to do, you are able to sell the idea in. Tell them how it works for your brand—and how it delivers the strategy.

Being a good client takes experience, practice, leadership and a willingness to adjust. Don’t write yourself off so quickly. Learn how to be a good client.

Theory #2: You Blame your Agency

  • You hate the brief: Agency writes a brief you don’t like—or you box them into a strategy. If either of you force a strategy on the other, then you’re off to a bad start.
  • Creative team over sells you: you get hood-winked with the “we are so excited” speech: You’re not sure what you want, so you settle for an OK ad in front of you—the best of what you saw. Ask yourself what’s missing before you buy an ad.
  • You lose connection with the agency: Keep your agency motivated so that you become the client they want to make great work on, rather than have to work on.
  • You lose traction through the production and edit: Talent, lighting, directors and edits—if the tone changes from the board to edit, then so does your ad.

An OK agency can do great work on a great client. But a great agency will fail with a bad client. Next time you want to fire your agency, maybe focus on yourself for improvement, because you’ll bring the same flaws to the next agency.

Theory #3: You Blame your Brand

  • The “I work on a boring Brand” argument. You think only cool brands like Nike, Apple, Ikea etc. are so much easier to work on. However, think again, because your boring brand has so much room to maneuver, it should be even easier.
  • You are too careful and think we can’t swing too far: Good ads either go left or right, not in the middle of the road. Consumers might not notice your “big shift”.
  • Advertising roulette: Where brand managers haven’t done the depth of thinking or testing, briefing is like a game of chance. Brands go round and round for years.
  • Your strategy Sucks: You figure if we don’t have a great strategy, a good ad might help. A great strategy makes an ad, but an Ad will never make a great strategy.

It’s one thing to be a “fan” of advertising in general, but we need to see you be a “fan” of YOUR advertising.

Be a better client

Here are eight ways to challenge yourself to show up better at every stage of the advertising process

  1. Do you develop a testable Brand Concept with rational and emotional benefits, plus support points that you know are actually motivating?
  2. How tight is your brief? Do you narrow the target and add engaging insights? Do you focus on the desired consumer response before deciding what your brand should say? Do you focus on one benefit and one message?
  3. Do you meet creative team before the first creative meeting to connect, align them with your vision and inspire them to push for great work?
  4. Do you hold tissue sessions to narrow solutions before going to scripts?
  5. At creative meetings, do you stay big picture, avoid getting into details? When giving direction, do you avoid giving your own solutions and but rather try to create a “new box” for the creative team to figure out the solutions?
  6. Do you take creative risks, and are you willing to be different to stand out?
  7. Do you manage your boss at every stage? Do you sell them, on your vision what you want?   Are you willing to fight for great work?
  8. Are you one of your agency’s favorite clients? Do they “want to” or do they “have to” work on your business? If they love you, they’ll work harder for you and do better work. They are only human. They will never tell you this, but I’m a former client so I will: if you want better work–it’s pretty simple–show up better. 


Be better at every stage 

  • When doing the strategy pre-work, dig in deep and do the work on insights, create a Big Idea and lay out the brand Concept. Even consider testing the concept to know that it motivates consumers. Never use the advertising process to figure out the brand strategy. 
  • Create a focused creative brief to create the box for the creative team, that has one objective, two insights, the desired response, one main benefit, two support points. 
  • Hold a creative expectations meeting to give a first impression on your vision, passion. Inspire and focus creative team. Do not take a hands off approach and avoid meeting the creative team, assuming your account team has conveyed EVERYTHING. 
  • Use a tissue session to explore ideas. Use this when you don’t have a campaign. Be open to new ways of looking at your brand. Focus on Big Ideas, without getting into the weeds. Be willing to push for better ideas if you don’t see them at the tissue session.
  • When in the creative meeting, be a positive minded client, focus only on big picture, give direction, make decisions. Avoid giving your solutions. No Details. Ask yourself: are you inspiring?
  • Use a feedback memo that is 24-48 hours after the creative meeting for more detailed challenges but without giving specific solutions. Use this to create a new box. Do not use this memo to say new thoughts that were not in the creative meeting or in the management meetings you had. If it is a new thought, pick up the phone and talk about it with your account person first. Slide01
  • If you use ad testing, you can use either quantitative or qualitative depending on time and budget. I always recommend that you use it to confirm your pick, not make your decision.
  • When gaining approval internally, sell it in!!!  That’s part of your role is to fight for the work you love. Be ready to fight resisters to make it happen. My rule of thumb is to bring the senior account person when that person has a good relationship with my boss and even use them to help sell it in (since they are better trained at selling) and then bring the most senior creative person when the creative work needs selling. 
  • Through the production stages, your role is to manage the tone to fit the brand. Think of this like managing the kitchen of your house–you have to live in it, so you have to live with every decision. Always, get more than you need so you can use it later. 
  • With post production, talk directly with and leverage every expert you come in contact with. The more you connect and empower them, the harder they’ll fight for what you need. 

Get the advertising you deserve

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 THINK STRATEGICALLY, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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



What the #*$& is wrong with McDonald’s? Here’s five things wrong.

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

imagesI’ve been confused about McDonald’s marketing the past year, mainly because it appears that McDonald’s is confused about their marketing. That coincides with poor business results, in a downward trend for each of the past 9 months, with February’s numbers showing a deepening issue–down 4% versus last year. “Consumer needs and preferences have changed,” the company said in Monday’s statement. “McDonald’s current performance reflects the urgent need to evolve with today’s consumers, reset strategic priorities and restore business momentum.”

McDonald’s are in desperate need for a RE-FOCUS, so they can get everyone focused on what matters the most. There needs to be an alignment of the team, a return behind their strengths and a return to the fundamentals. The issue with the culture at McDonald’s is that it’s very top-down insular culture with very little outside thinking–which is great when things are going well, but will be tough to battle through when things aren’t going so well.  

Here’s the top 5 potential things wrong with McDonald’s. 

McDonald’s is not aligned with the trend towards healthy eating. 51JW1207ZALThat’s obvious, but that was also equally obvious the past 5 years ago when they grew an average of 10% a year, even +13% the year after the “Super Size Me” movie came out. Also, there are a few examples of indulgent brands that have done well (e.g. 5 Guys), in countering the health trend, to use it as a regular escape from your diet.McDonald’s scored high marks for putting calories on their menu, but bad publicity when they fought NYC on the size of drinks they serve. So while this might be part of the decline, I’m not sure this is the main reason for the decline. McDonald’s should be able to still find growth in this market. 

McDonald’s lacks a product-identity of what it’s now the best at. I’m older so I still think of it as a fast-food burger & fries place. But the menu has become so diverse, I’m no longer sure consumers know what McDonald’s is all about. Without a main product identity where it can win, McDonald’s runs the risk of being second fiddle to everyone they compete against–second fiddle to 5 Guys on burgers, to Dairy Queen on Shakes, to Chick-Fil-A on chicken, to Starbucks on Coffee and Subway on sandwiches. A great case study for McDonald’s is what happened with Starbucks in 2009, where they closed every Starbucks for a day to re-train baristas and send a signal that they are a coffee place. Here’s what I wrote about the Starbucks Case Study: The Starbucks Come Back story: Losing their focus, only to regain it!!!  McDonald’s should re-claim the stake that they are the best burger. They should have done this the past 12-24 months before allowing 5 Guys to get to 1500 locations. They need to own the burger. 

Slide1No one wants to know how sausage is made. I know the internet is attacking McDonald’s all the time about using bleach in their burgers and pink goop in their chicken but we don’t really need McDonald’s mass media to tell us their burgers are made from 100% real beef and their chicken is made from 100% real chicken. I always assumed it was, but now that you bring attention to it, you’re kind of grossing me out. McDonald’s took it a step farther with this on-line video they produced.  Here’s what I wrote last spring: McDonald’s takes a wonderful Advertising idea…and makes a complete disaster out of it  While they might think this video works to explain what their brand is about, I find this video makes me never want a nugget again in my life. As CNN reports below, it’s not pink goop, it’s beige goop and it sure doesn’t make you hungry.   Looking at the options above, McDonald’s should be focused on the heart and the soul of their consumers. McDonald’s needs less attention on the product and more on the magic of the idea of the brand–as the fun little escape for lunch place. 

The experience is now slow and not really that cheap. Ray Kroc’s McDonald’s that grew so fast in the 1960s and 70s was vested in the strong values of quality, service, cleanliness and value. People were trained the McDonald’s way and as a customer you benefited from fast, friendly service and franchises were expected to keep a clean, well-run restaurants. The last few times I’ve been, the speed has been disastrous–you order and then wait 5-10 minutes for them to yell out your number. There is no way the service is friendly–as I rarely hear manners from a McDonald’s employee. Manners are free and can go a long way in making a difference.  

mccafe-headerThe McCafe branding and restaurant re-design. Here’s an article I wrote on McDonald’s launch into the coffee market two years ago: Can McDonald’s win the Coffee War? Not a chance. But two years later, it’s even more important to realize that not only is Starbucks winning, but the investment McDonald’s has put into the coffee launch has taken away from investing in their core fast food business. McDonald’s put major capital into putting fake fireplaces into most locations–major costs that still resemble a plastic play-land. The thing that drives me most crazy about the McCafe is they are hiding what they really are: the golden arches, Ronald McDonald’s, the Big Mac and french fries. While McDonald’s should keep a good coffee, it’s time to re-focus back on being a fast food destination. Get rid of the McCafe branding BS and just make it a product that McDonald’s has, not a separate brand logo that competes with the McDonald’s logo. 

As a new CEO takes the helm, it is time for McDonald’s to re-focus. There is a need for some creativity and investing back in creating a food experience that McDonald’s can win on. Re-train staff to be friendlier and faster for consumers Create magical brand advertising that bonds with consumers. My hope is that McDonald’s can get there–as it’s one of the hall of fame brands out there.

McDonald’s needs to find a reason for their consumers to love it 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 THINK STRATEGICALLY, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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



Personal Branding: How to create your own brand plan

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Slide1If you’ve ever been in a job so long that you don’t have an updated resume or Linked In profile, you’re in a dangerous place. In today’s economy, you want to stay aware, keep current and always be on the look out for what’s next. As we push the personal branding, you should be able to articulate your own brand in 7 seconds, 60 seconds and 30 minutes, all shaping and telling the same story. Start off your next interview with a 7 second pitch that describes yourself (e.g. I’m a marketer that finds growth where others can’t), follow that with a 60 second articulation of what that means, and use the rest of the interview to layer in the elements of your 30 minute story. 

Finding your Big Idea

Everyone talks about the 7 second elevator pitch, but it’s not easy to get there. I suppose you could ride up and down the elevator and try telling people. That may drive you insane. The Big Idea (some call it the Brand Essence) is the most concise definition of the Brand. For Volvo, it’s “Safety”, while BMW might be “Performance” and Mercedes is “Luxury”. Below is the Tool I use to figure out a Brand’s Big Idea revolving around four areas that help define the Brand 1) Brand’s personality 2) Products and Services the brand provides 3) Internal Beacons that people internally rally around when thinking about the brand and 4) Consumer Views of the Brand.  What we normally do is brainstorm 3-4 words in each of the four sections and then looking collectively begin to frame the Brand’s Big Idea with a few words or a phrase to which the brand can stand behind.


Once you have your Big Idea, you should then use it to frame the 5 different connectors needed to set up a very strong bond between your brand and your consumers.


Creating a Personal Brand Plan

You need to build a Brand Plan that focuses your efforts in the market place. Use a traditional brand plan format, to include vision, purpose, values, goals, issues, strategies and tactics to create a plan. Here are some definitions to help trigger your thinking.


And now when you bring these two documents together you can create your own personal Brand Plan on one page. Below is my document that we use for our “Beloved Brands” personal brand. You should try this out using your own brand and you’ll use the strategies to focus your tactical efforts.


Manage your personal brand as though you would the brand you work on

And here’s a link to our Beloved Brands presentation on personal branding:

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 see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

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

GR bio Jun 2016.001



Making brand leaders better at running the brand financials

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Great Brand Leaders, not only drive demand, they drive profitable demand.

Slide1A lot of marketers enter in marketing as a career because they weren’t into the numbers part of business. However, the reality is that to run a brand you have to be good at running the P&L. The only reason that brands exist is that you can create a bond, power and profit, beyond what the product itself could achieve. At Beloved Brands, we believe that passion matters because the more loved a brand is by consumers the more powerful and profitable that brand can be. So in everything you do as a brand leader, even as you are launching new products, creating new advertising or writing a great brand plan, you have to have profit front and center in everything you do. Yet, there are far too many Brand Leaders who can’t run the P&L. These Brand Leaders hit the mid-point of their career and then we realize that they aren’t very good with numbers and all of a sudden, a fast track career for the super star Brand Manager completely stalls. As you’re looking up to the director level jobs, challenge yourself to get better with finance.

Looking at the P&L

Here’s my Finance 101 that can help  simplify your role with the P&L. This is meant for the Brand Manager level who is aspiring to continuing to move up.  But regardless of level, if you secretly are weak in the P&L area, this might help you.  Slide1

While it’s important to learn every line of the P&L, where Brand Leaders can have the biggest impact is on the Net Sales, the Gross Margin and the Contribution Margin.  The Net Sales line is simply Gross Sales minus the Trade Spend. Some income statements have brought the trade spend up to the sales line, while others have left it down in the cost line. Check with your company’s or country’s way of doing it.  In many industries, the trade terms are dictated by the channels.  While I would want to say the more Beloved Brands have a power over the channels, many times they still aren’t able to turn that power into lowering the trade spend.  If the trade spend is out of your control, you should be working with sales to ensure you are maximizing the value in programs that you are getting for the trade spend.  

Net Sales is the Unit Sales times Net Price. For unit sales, you’ll have to either drive the market share or enter new markets. That’s where the marketing programs you leverage drive faster growth relative to the spend. And for price, you can increase price or get consumers to trade up to a premium price within your portfolio.  The overall brand image you drive will usually be one of the biggest impacts on price. The more love you create for the brand, the more inelastic the price. 

Gross Margin is Net Sales minus Cost of Goods.  Just like above this can be impacted by how high of a price premium you can drive for the brand, or whether you can lower your Cost of Goods without impacting the quality of the product.  As a Brand Manager, this becomes your primary focus for “profit” as you feel the below the line costs are out of you control, so you don’t pay much attention to them.   However, as you get up to the Director or VP level, you get involved in discussions about marketing spend, R&D and the goals for the bottom line contribution margin levels.  This is where your strength or weakness in running the P&L begins to really show up.  

The ways brand leaders can Drive the P&L

Looking at the above P&L lines, in a slightly different way you really have 8 different areas that you can impact the Profit:

    • With Price, you can increase/decrease the price or you can get consumers to trade up to a premium line or down to a value line.   
    • When looking at Costs, you’re either driving the product costs or the marketing costs. You’re trying to minimize the costs without impacting the brand or the impact on the brand.
    • Driving the Market Share is a focus on either stealing other users or getting your current users to use more. 
    • The Market Size is all about entering new categories or finding new uses for your current brand.  


Using Price as a weapon to drive brand value.  It can be a price change, up or down, or it could be trying to get consumers to trade up or down.

  • Price Increase: You can do a price increase if the market or brand allows you. It likely has to be based on passing along cost increases. Factors that help are whether you are a healthy brand or it’s a healthy market as well as the power of your brand vs competition and channel.
  • Price Decrease: Used when fighting off competitor, if you need to react to a sluggish economy or channel pressure. Another reason to decrease price is if you have a competitive advantage around cost, whether that’s manufacturing, materials or distribution.

There are watch outs for price changes. It’s difficult to execute price changes especially if it has to go through retailers. You need to understand power relationships–how powerful are the retailers. Many times, price changes are scrutinized so badly by retailers that you must have proof of why you are doing it. Also, it’s quite likely your Competitors will (over) react. So your assumptions you used to go with the price increase will change right after. And finally, it’s not easy to change back.

  • Trading Up: If you have In a range of products, sometimes it can be beneficial to get consumers to trade up. Can you carve out a meaningful difference to create a second tier that goes beyond your current brand? Does your brand image/ratings allow it?
  • Trading Down: Risky, but you see unserved market, with minimal damage to image/reputation of the brand. In a tough economy, it might be better to create a value set of products rather than lower the price on your main products.

When looking at Price Increases, here’s a formula to help get you started on your analysis for gaining approval.  


Beloved Brands seem more capable at driving profits through pricing, but they also are careful to ensure the premium does not become excessive to create backlash. There are a few watch outs around trying to trade up or down: Premium skus, can feel orphaned at retail world—on the shelf or missing ads or displays. Managing multiple price levels can be difficult—what to support, price differences etc. For all the effort you go to, make sure your margins stay consistently strong through the trading up or down. Be careful that you don’t lose focus on your core business. Can’t be all things to everyone. The final concern is what does it do your Brand’s image, especially risky when trading downward.

Managing cost as a weapon to enhance the Brand’s Value. It can be either your cost of goods or the potential selling costs.

  • Cost of Goods Decreases: You are able to use the power of your brand to drive power over your suppliers, you find cheaper potential raw materials, process improvement or find off-shore manufacturing.
  • Cost of Goods Increases: Make sure that you manage the COGs as they increase. Watch out for suppliers trying to pass along costs. But realize that with new technology, investing in brand’s improved image, going after premium markets, offering new benefit or a format change, that cost of good increases could be a reality.

The watch outs with managing costs: with cuts, make sure the product change is not significantly noticeable. You should understand any potential impact in the eyes of your consumer on your brand’s performance and image. Can the P&L cover these costs, either increased sales or efficiency elsewhere. Managing your margin % is crucial to the long-term success of your brand.

  • Selling Cost Decrease: To counter changes in the P&L (price, volume or cost), it’s very tempting to look to short-term P&L management or look at changes in go-to-market model. Where a brand stands on the product life cycle or how loved the brand is can really impact the selling costs. Even though we think that Beloved Brands have endless spending, they actually likely have a lower investment to sales ratio.
  • Selling Cost Increase: When you’re in Investment mode, defensive position trying to hold share against an aggressive competitor or when you see a proven payback in higher sales–with corresponding margins.

Here’s a simple margin calculation to get you going:Slide1

Always be in an ROI mindset: Manage your marketing costs as though every DOLLAR has to efficiently drive sales. Realize that short-term cuts can carry longer term impact. Competitive reaction can influence the impact of investment stance–like a price change, your competitor might over-react to your increases in spending.

Externally, the Share and volume game are traditional tools for brand. Either stealing other users or get current users to use more.

  • Offensive Share Gains: Use it when you have a significant Competitive Advantage or you see untapped needs in the market. Or opportunistic, use first mover advantage on new technology.
  • Defensive Share Stance: Hold the fort until you can catch up on technology, maintain profitability, loyal base of followers needs protecting.

Be careful when trying to gain share. A Beloved Brand has a drawing power where it does gain share without having to use attack modes. Attacking competitors can be difficult. It could just become a spend escalation with both brands just going at it. After a share war that’s not based on a substantive reasoning (eg. technology change), there might end up with no winners, just losers. Many times, the channel will try to play one competitor against another for their own gain. Watch out what consumers you target in a competitive battle: some may just come in because of the lower price and go back to their usual brand.

  • Get Current Users to Use More: When there is an opportunity to turn loyal users into creating a potential routine. Changing behaviours is more difficult than enticing trial. It’s a good strategy to use, when your there’s real benefit to your consumer using more. It’s hard to just get them to use more without a real reason.

There has to be a real benefit connected to using more or it might look hollow/shallow. Driving routines is a challenge. Even with “life saving” medicines, the biggest issue is compliance. Find something in their current life to help either ground it or latch onto. When I worked on Listerine, people only used mouthwash 20-30 times a year compared to 700+ brushing occasions. So we focused on connecting rinsing with Listerine to the twice daily brushing routine.

Increase the Size of the Market by Finding New Users or Creating New Uses.

  • Find New Users: When there is an untapped or under-served need. There could be a significant changing demographic that impacts your base. Or you are able to translate/transfer your reputation to a new user group. There should be something within your product/brand that helps fuel the brand post trial. Trial without repeat, means you’ll get the spike but then bust. Substantial investment required. Don’t let it distract from protecting the base loyal users.
  • Create New Uses: Format Line Extensions that take your experience or name elsewhere. Able to leverage same benefit in convenient “on the go” offering. Make sure current brand is in order before you divert attention, funding and focus on expansion area. Investment needed, could divert from spend on base business. Be careful because the legendary stories (Arm and Hammer) don’t come along as much as we hope.

As you look to either grow by share or new categories the two crucial calculations for you are Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) and Return on Investment (ROI) 

For CAGR, here is a calculation tool:


And for Return on Investment (ROI):


Show Your Work:  Just like in grade school where you get extra points for showing your work, the same thing goes when taking senior leaders through your assumptions.  

There is only one reason we have brands: to make more money than if we just had products.

To view a copy of How to drive Profits into your Brand, click below:

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

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™


The 10 real reasons that Target failed in Canada

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

target5Having lost nearly $1 billion in its first year in Canada, and facing more multimillion-dollar losses, Target announced on Thursday it would discontinue its operations in Canada and close its 133 stores. While the news of them closing should not be a surprise, the speed in which they left feels pretty shocking. They didn’t even make the 2-year anniversary of the new store.

1. Target just wasn’t different. 

Brands really only have four choices: they can better, different, cheaper or not around for long. For Target in the US, they have always taken the “different” positioning–focused on cool suburban moms, broader offering. But in Canada, Target basically became Wal-Mart with red paint. They never found a way to separate themselves to be seen as different enough to get “new consumers” to try it out and yet they seemed to disappoint those potential loyal consumers who had already bought into the US version of Target. 

2. The suburban positioning already taken in Canada

In the US market, Wal-Mart grew up through the 70s and 80s as a small town or even a rural brand, providing the opportunity for Target to become the suburban version of Wal-Mart. But even looking at pure demographics, Canada has the biggest middle class population in the world, the population is very concentrated to six main cities, where as in the US there are many small towns scattered throughout. When Wal-Mart entered Canada, they purchased the retail footprint of Woolco, which was a suburban brand. The Wal-Mart strategy in Canada closely resembled what Target had done in the US: going after suburban moms, new/fresh stores, big wide/clean aisles making for a better shopping experience than in the Wal-Mart stores in the US.

3. The Low priced clothing for cool moms positioning was already taken in Canada

joe_freshLoblaws is the biggest food retailer and are known for a) copying great retailers around the world b) attacking their competitors viciously. While originally a grocery store, the Loblaws stores have become a mass merchandiser store where you can get the same low-priced clothing for the cool moms, via the JOE FRESH brand. This took away a potential competitive advantage for Target to leverage.

4. Target invested too much and too fast in new locations and new employees

Target launched 133 stores and hired 17,000 employees in Canada–almost half of Wal-Mart’s footprint in Canada, who have been here for 20 years. Taking on the leases of Zellers and then fixing up their locations was costly and crippling to the operations.Target tried to do way too much too soon–hurting their ability to deliver the same experience they are delivering in the US. Target had two strategic choices at launch: a) pick limited locations and do it right or b) cover everywhere in Canada as a preventative strategy against competitive attacks. They decided to be everywhere, and as we can see did a very bad job. They should have staggered their launch by starting with Toronto only, expanding to key markets as they established themselves and managed to create a loyal following. Operations were awfully sloppy. The procurement system was so poorly run that empty store shelves were not uncommon. Given the empty stores, it’s hard to really blame a run on merchandising.o-TARGET-CANADA-EMPTY-SHELVES-facebook

5. Target had no money left to actually drive demand

The best thing about Target is you could get a great parking spot, there were no crowds in the aisles and you didn’t have to line up to pay. Why? Because, there was no one there. As all the money went into the bricks and mortar of creating new stores, they had very little money left over for marketing. In the 18 months since launch, there was very little hype, no great advertising, no wonderful launch events, no press coverage, very little on social media. They never created the demand needed to drive revenue.

6. They didn’t have the same selection as their US stores

The most loyal Target shoppers in Canada had experienced the Target store in the US for years, whether they were cross border shopping or going to Target when they were vacationing in Florida, Arizona or California. And the biggest complaint they had about Target Canada is the lack of product breadth on the shelves. They were expecting the identical offering they saw in Target US. But that’s not a reality. Target is JUST a retailer at the mercy of what the manufacturers offer in Canada. There are numerous factors that impact the variety when it comes to Canadian manufacturers–the biggest being the relative size of listing fees that Canadian retailers demand are so big that launching smaller small skus just doesn’t make sense in Canada. The difference in government regulations will also alter what products can be available for sale.

7. Target US sales dropped the minute they announced they were going into Canada

Target is a very US centric brand, with Canada representing their first attempt at International–and it might be their last. As soon as they launched, they faced declining sales and share in the US. It was unrelated, but now Target management faced two issues at once–a turnaround strategy to solidify US sales and a launch strategy internationally. Anytime you divert your attention, you’re likely to mess one of them up, and the Canadian launch suffered. 

8. The dropping Canadian dollar messed up their financial contributions

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 11.48.38 PMWhat is not mentioned very often is that the Canadian Dollar has fallen from relative parity when they were considering launching two years ago to 0.83 cents. That has a two-fold impact: the reporting of sales and profits internationally just took a 17% hit due to exchange and the imported items from the US just saw a big cost increase that will bite into the margins. With those loyal Target shoppers already upset that the Canadian and US prices are not equal, there was very little opportunity for Target to cover the impact of the dollar in their P&L. 

9. Target saw very little risk to leaving

When they made the decision to exit Canada, they did so very quickly and from reading everything said this week by Target, they showed very little remorse. The opening of their press release started by telling the US manufacturers that this statement had zero impact on the US stores or their standing with manufacturers in the US. Rather than bite the full financial bullet, Target has asked for somewhat of a bankruptcy protection, like Chapter 11 in the US. I guess the question is “why are they asking for any protection?”.  Yes, they said they would create a trust that would cover 16 weeks of severance pay for “most” of their employees. The “most” line caught my eye, which feels similar to that classic “Up to 70% off everything in store”. We shall see how fairly they treat ALL 17,000 employees. And will the protection get them out of leasehold agreements that leave malls empty and scrambling to fill them and will they treat the uniquely Canadian manufacturers the same as they treat their US manufacturers. 

10. Their loyal consumers embraced Target more than Target embraced their consumers

When consumers care more than the brand, that brand is in trouble. And from what I can see, there still are many loyal Target consumers who are disappointed in the news. At Beloved Brands, we believe passion matters, because the more loved a brand is by consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be. Target did very little to create love with consumers. Their promise lacked any real difference and they failed to tell their story to the Canadian marketplace. There was zero magic in the way they connected with consumers and zero magic in the experience in the stores. 

Let this be a lesson to the next retailer who will venture into Canada

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 see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

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


How to communicate your brand story internally, by turning your “Big Idea” into a Brand Credo

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Does your brand have a brand credo? 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?” Slide12-2
and I rarely get a great answer. When I stand in front of the bigger brand team and ask that question, with the best brands I get one answer, and with struggling brands, I can guarantee I’ll get multiple conflicting answers. That’s not healthy. I always say that brands should be able to explain themselves in 7 seconds, 60 seconds and 30 minutes, all laddering up to the same message. There are too many Brands where what gets said inside the corporate office is completely different than what gets said in the marketplace. Moreover, there are brands that only view “messaging” as something Brand does in TV ads or through logos. How do you communicate what your brand stands for when you’re with R&D, HR, or finance? I recommend you create your own Brand Credo, which should come directly from your brand’s Big Idea. Here’s how:

Start with finding the Big Idea of your Brand

I’ve always heard how Brand is the hub of the organization and everything should revolve around the Brand. While it makes sense, it’s just talk unless you are managing your business based on your brand’s Big Idea throughout every inch of your organization. Everyone connected to the brand, should fully understand the brand’s Big Idea. And when I say “everyone”, I’m talking about everyone in the entire organization, including Sales, Finance, Production, R&D, HR and Marketing, as well as everyone outside the organization including agencies or employees at your retailers.

We’ve explained the Big Idea tool a few times, but here’s a refresher. The Brand’s Big Idea (some call it the Brand Essence) is the most concise and inspiring definition of the Brand. For Volvo, it’s “Safety”, while BMW might be “Performance” and Mercedes is “Luxury”. Volvo has stood for safety for almost 60 years, long before safety even registered with consumers. Here is the Tool I use to figure out a Brand’s Big Idea.  The model revolves around four quadrants that surround and yet help to define the Brand:

  1. Brand’s personality: human descriptors that express the brand’s style, tone and attitude.
  2. Products and Services: features, attributes, and functional characteristics that are embedded in what we sell.
  3. Internal Beacons: the internal views or purpose of the brand, why people believe their brand can win, what inspires, motivates and challenges.
  4. Consumer Views: honest assessment of how the consumer sees the brand, the good and bad.  

big ideaHow this tool works best with a team is that we normally brainstorm 3-4 words in each of the four quadrants and then try to form those words into a sentence for each quadrant. After all 4 quadrants are filled, we then looking collectively and begin to frame the brand’s Big Idea with a phrase that embodies the entirety of the brand. As I facilitate sessions using this tool, it’s almost magical as we see the brand really come to life. You have to have a bit of faith that the work around the big circle provides you with an inspiration for what the big idea really is. Executives love this exercise and it works.  This is the Big Idea completed for my own brand: Beloved Brands.Slide1


Simplify your Brand’s Big Idea into a Credo that motivates and steers everyone

Slide1Having spent time at Johnson and Johnson, the Credo document is an essential part of the culture of the organization. Not only does it permeate throughout the company, you will likely find it quoted in meetings on a daily basis. It’s a beautifully written document and ahead of its time. The original author was General Robert Wood Johnson in 1943. What is most fascinating from a brand vantage is that the first responsibility is to the healthcare professionals and consumers who rely on the J&J products. He understood their importance above and beyond anything else. The second and third tenants were to employees and the community with the final tenant being the stockholders. Yes, business must make a profit. But as the document suggests there is a belief that if you cover off the first three, the shareholder should benefit–but should never be placed ahead. Keep in mind, this was written when there was only one shareholder–Mr Johnson himself–but he knew that the company would be going public the next year. He wanted to use this Credo document to steer the culture based on his values.

Like any company these days, J&J has veered off course either through business decisions or ethics. But having that document allows them to take action.

If you have the energy to write such a document go for it. But Ritz-Carlton has created a much simpler Credo example they use to steer their brand experience through their people. Recognizing that any great brand has to be better, different or cheaper to win, Ritz ritzcredo1Carlton focuses their attention on impeccable service standards to separate themselves from other Hotels.  What Ritz Carlton has done so well is operationalize it so that culture and brand are one. 

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Ritz Carlton Training session, and as a Brand Leader, the thing that struck me was the idea of meeting the “unexpressed” needs of guests.  As highly paid Marketers, even with mounds of research, we still struggle to figure out what our consumers want, yet Ritz Carlton has created a culture where bartenders, bellhops and front desk clerks instinctively meet these “unexpressed needs”.  Employees carry around note pads and record the expressed and unexpressed needs of every guest and then they use their instincts to try to surprise and delight these guests.

Employees are fully empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.  Unique means doing something that helps to separate Ritz Carlton from other hotels, memorable forces the staff to do something that truly stands out.   And personal is defined as people doing things for other people. The Ritz-Carlton Credo does a nice job articulating who they are and provides some support for their Big Idea, but does not go far enough. 

Slide1Looking at the Beloved Brands Credo example, we believe that a well-articulated credo should answer:

  • What is you brand’s big idea? What is the one thing that you do better, different or cheaper than anyone else?
  • What are the two ways you can bring that big idea to life (proof points, values, beliefs, tone) that helps to separate your brand from the pack?

The Beloved Brands Credo leads off with the big idea of making brands and brand leaders better. While a lot of consultants can claim that, we think our belief about brands that helps separate us. We link the passion of the work to the love of your brand which can then be harnessed for growth and profits. What also separates us is how we challenge brand leaders, not just in our tone but with new ideas, models and systems that are all linked to fundamentally helping brands and brand leaders unleash their full potential.

To read more click on this hyper link:  Tools to help you describe your brand in 7 seconds, 60 seconds and 30 minutes

Communicating your brand story internally is as crucial as any external communication to the market

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 see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911Slide1

Strategic thinkers see questions, before they see answers. Non-strategic thinkers see answers before questions.

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Everyone thinks they are strategic. Yet, these same people can’t even explain what “being strategic” means.

There are a lot of marketers trying to move from mid-level management into the more senior roles, as either Director or VP. They tell me they are “strategic”. Of course they are. Who isn’t strategic these days? Everyone seems to proclaim they are a “strategic thinker” on their LinkedIn profile. People get promoted because they are strategic and held back in their careers at a given level because they aren’t strategic enough. Yet, has your boss ever had a real conversation about what it means to be more strategic?  Or do they just say it and you just take it? Have you ever received training on being more strategic?  I spent 20 years at Fortune 500 companies and I never received any training, tips or feedback on being more strategic. Yet, we keep saying “strategic” all the time. Slide1

When I ask people “so, what does it mean to be strategic?”, I normally end up with lots of awkward pauses and then they give me some type of answer about making the right choices. Well, “making the right choices” could be strategic, but it might be tactical as well. They tell me they have vision of where to go. That’s only part of strategy. Good strategy has vision, focus, opportunity, early wins, leverage and ability to find a gateway to something bigger. Good strategy provides some type of return (connectivity, financial, change in power, shift in position) that is bigger than the effort put in.

To me, the difference between a strategic thinker and a non-strategic thinker is whether you see questions first or answers first. Both offer extreme value to a brand.  

  • Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions. They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planning who can see connections.
  • Non Strategic 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. They opt for action over thinking. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. They get frustrated by strategic thinkers.


The best Brand Leaders I’ve seen are a bit of a chameleon, as they are able to balance both strategy and execution–or put another way, both questions and answers. While pure strategic people make great consultants, I wouldn’t want them running my brand. They’d keep analyzing things to death, asking questions over and over, without ever taking action. Every day there would be more strategies. And while tactical people get stuff done, is it the right stuff?  I want someone running my brand who is both strategic and non-strategic, almost equally so. Great Brand Leaders can talk with both types, one minute debating investment choices and then at a TV edit deciding on option A or B. Great Brand Leaders think with strategy but act with instincts.  

For many marketers, there are things that get in the way of being strategic.

  • There is always a conflict between strategic thinking and taking action. In many companies, there is a mistaken attitude that doing something is better than doing nothing. The problem is that without proper focus, taking random action just spreads resources randomly. (time, investment, people, partners) 
  • Many marketers have a conflict with their own sales team that can take them off strategy.  Sales people are not less strategic, but place a higher value in relationship than many marketers. They have to work within the needs and opinions of their buyers and balance shorter term risk with strategic gains.
  • When dealing with agencies, Brand Leaders can lose track of their strategy by being talked into a great ad. Agencies are more emotional than brand leaders and value pride more than the brand leader—Agency people want to make work they can show off. And no matter what, the real brand that Agencies manage is their own first, and your brand second.

Slow down your thinking. Slow Thinking is logical, deeper thinking, effortful, logical, calculating and many times part of the conscious. I see too many Brand Leaders who are so smart, they go too quickly through their strategy, choosing the obvious options and because they never stop to ask the great questions they never force the deeper thinking needed for strategy. Fast Thinking is more Instinctual, automatic, emotional, subconscious and gut reaction.You should use fast thinking when doing your execution. When it comes to execution, these same Brand Leaders see so much execution risk they slow things down and over-think every part of the execution. They worry if it will work in market or even whether their boss will approve it. As much as quick strategic causes Brand Leaders to miss out on the deeper strategic issues, slowing down on execution causes you to over-think and miss out on great creative ideas.

Slide1If you want to demonstrate to senior management that you are strategic, instead of showing that you have the best answers, try showing them that you have the best questions. When you are with your team, instead of looking to tell them what to do at every turn, ask them great questions that make them think. When your agency presents creative advertising ideas, instead of giving them detailed feedback that fixes the ad, see if you can use questions to move them in the direction you want.

If you wish to be more strategic, slow down, ask richer deeper questions that challenge those around you.

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 see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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


No brand does Social Media better than Taylor Swift

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

B2WXKxRIUAA8EY-Yes, every star these days has millions of fans following them on Twitter and Instagram. But it’s what Taylor Swift does with her following that really separates her out from the pack, and helps turn her into a Beloved Brand.  I know you want to be cynical and think “well, she likely has a team of people”.  Yes she does, but she has the vision, direction and final say for how her brand is portrayed. Justin Bieber might have similar followers, but in between throwing eggs at the neighbor’s house or driving too fast, the most interesting thing he ever tweets is “Hello Chicago” on the morning of his concert or dropping the names of other celebrities that he’s hanging out with. It reminds me of Michael Jackson back in the 1980s–everyone was using video, but MJ was just using it better than everyone. 

I’m not a fan of TSwizzle’s music, but she does an amazing job portraying herself as an average girl living a celebrity life. She tries to do “normal things” that someone her age would do for her friends, and in this case she treats her fans as though they are her friends.The creative programs Taylor does choose give you a feeling that it’s not just about awareness, but rather about connecting. She uses surprise and delight marketing in many of the things she does, which is a great tool that bridges “pop star” lifestyle with the “average girl” image.   

Here are 5 brilliant and highly creative on-line moves by Taylor Swift that connect her on a deeper level with her followers:

1. Taylor woke up and flew to Ohio to surprise a fan by going to her bridal shower. She appears like a long-lost friend, hugging everyone and talking with ease among her “friends”.

2. While very small in nature, she has been well-known to just lurk around and comment on randomly comment on people’s Instagram page. Imagine how huge it is when her name randomly show up one day.  She’s even taken it a step further by providing advice to fans on Instagram–the type of advice that a friend would provide. 


3. This year, “Swiftmas” gifts to fan, where they actually studied the social media pages of certain fans to give them gifts that were relevant to that person’s life–just like a friend–plus long hand-written notes. She visited one long-term fan with gifts for her son–spending two hours with the family. Just watch the reaction of these fans. This video has over 14 million hits.

4.  Taylor wrote a compassionate and supporting note on Instagram to a Fan who was bullied. Bullying is a very important topic and this note generated tons of positive PR for Taylor.


5.  Visiting a Boston’s Children’s Hospital. What shows up in this video is how casual Taylor is–from having an un-tuned guitar to not overly prepared what to sing to a viral filming of the visit. 

Through each of these programs, Taylor Swift appears very open, authentic and genuine in her approach to fans. She grew up in such a video/on-line/social media world, that taking selfies, tweeting about waking up late and commenting people’s Instagram pages are just very “normal” things to do.

Taylor Swift uses Social Media to show up as”just an average girl”

Last year, I wrote about How Miley Cyrus used controversy to gain attention in a very strategic manner.  To read more on that, click on this hyper link:  Managing the Miley Cyrus Brand

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 see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

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


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