A Brand Vision should scare you a little, but excite you a lot!!!

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers


Every brand plan should start with a brand vision of where you want to be in the long term. Yet, too many brand leaders try to write their brand plans so quickly, they go directly to strategies and action plans. They never think far enough out (e.g. This is a one year plan) but rather just focus on HOW to win NOW with their get-it-done attitude.

But, if a brand vision answers “where could we be?” and the brand strategy answers “how can we get there?” then how could you ever write the strategy without knowing the vision. How can you write how to get there, if you don’t know where “there” is?

Imagine leaving the house, without knowing where you’re going.

Think of the brand vision as the end-in-mind goal of an ideal state where you would feel completely satisfied that you achieved it. To get to that idealized state, we always ask the question:

“If you woke up on January 1st, ten years from now, and you were in a great mood because of what was happening on the brand, then what are the three biggest things on your business that you would you have accomplished?

At first, we keep it as a “straw dog” vision, with 3 simple bullet points, knowing we can always word-smith it later. But we have found that we have to ask this same question 5+ times, because normally the first few answers are complete B.S., filled with corporate rhetoric, cool statements that look good but say very little and lines that try to please your boss rather than provide the authentic direction of where you could be. 

Does having a brand vision statement pay out?

Companies that have vision statements have a better sense of where they are going. And the proof that it pays off:

  • A Harvard Study across 20 industries looking at businesses showed that companies with vision statements saw their revenue grew more than four times faster; job creation was seven times higher; their stock price grew 12 times faster; and profit performance was 750% higher.
  • Newsweek looked at 1000 companies and found companies with vision statements had an average return on stockholder equity of 16.1%, while firms without them had only a 7.9% average return.
  • “Built to Last” showed that for companies with vision statements, that a $1 investment in 1926 would have returned $6,350 compared to only a return of $950 for comparable companies without a vision.

A brand vision helps to frame the overall brand plan

“Where could you be” should be a stake-in-the-ground that inspires and pushes you, while motivating others. It should scare you a little, but excite you a lot. Think of the Vision as the end in mind achievement towards your purpose. Some call them Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs). Even if it’s a one year plan, think 10 years out: if you became this one thing, you would know that you are successful. Ideally, balance the statement in the qualitative (want) and quantitative (measurable). It should be motivating and enticing to get people focused. It should be personal and speak to why you get up in the morning—supporting why you got into this business.

Things that Make a Good vision: 

  1. Easy for employees and partners to understand and rally around
  2. Think about something that can last 5-10 years or more
  3. Balance between aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement)
  4. It’s ok to embed a financial ($x) or share position (#1) element into it as long as it’s important for framing the vision.

The watch outs for vision statements:

  1. It’s not a positioning statement.  Almost positioning neutral  Let the positioning come out in the strategy.
  2. Make sure we haven’t achieved it already.  If you are #2, then don’t put “be #2”.
  3. Don’t put strategic statements. Vision answers “where could we be” and not “how can we get there”
  4. Try to be single-minded: Tighten it up and don’t include everything!! Can you say it in an elevator. Can you actually remember it? Can you yell it at a sales meeting?

Your brand vision scare you a little, but excite you a lot. 

There is no value in having a brand vision that is easy to meet. I once had a client tell me their vision was “to be the #2 brand” and I said “what are you now” and they said “we are #2 now”.  I said “this was the easiest project I’ve ever worked on”.  Having an easy vision  won’t push you, stretch you or inspire you to work harder. A funny story: when my son was in 9th grade, his teacher asked on the first day “what grade do you hoped to achieve in the class?”  My son put a D. When I asked him why, he said “I like to over-achieve”. I would rather he put A+ and miss it, than a D and over-deliver. Imagine if he had an A- at the mid-term, the stretch vision would have motivated him to work even harder or change his habits to reach that stretch goal of an A+. Even if he fell short, he would have achieved an A. It’s better to narrowly miss a stretch vision that pushed and inspired you to work harder than to have an easy goal you cheerfully achieved. 

Below are a few examples of brand visions that will hopefully inspire you.

  • I love the Nike vision of “Crush Adidas”, written in the 1960s. I’m sure when they wrote that vision, it seemed somewhat insurmountable (scares you a little) but certainly provided a single-minded focus (excites you a lot) and steered them to actually crushing Adidas by the early 1980s, forcing Adidas to make a necessary come-back.  
  • Princess Margaret Hospital is a cancer hospital with a beautiful and inspiring vision to “conquer cancer in our lifetime”. This speaks to the ongoing on-going battle against cancer, but speaks to the purpose (the why) that everyone connected to the hospital lives and breathes everyday.
  • Lexmark took the inspiration even further by getting the employees to write the brand vision, because they are the brand. The idea of “customers for life” helps inspire and focus everyone who works for Lexmark. 

vision 2.001A well-articulated vision can really make a difference for employees, giving them both a challenge and focus to what they do each day. For service driven companies, where people are the brand it becomes essential.  Adding in brand values and even service values can help people in knowing what they should be doing each day and how they should be doing it. For a product driven brand, it can help all drive focus for all those working around the brand whether that’s ad agencies, R&D, sales or operations.

A brand vision has to stretch you, the point of uncertainty that you can actually meet it.

Slide1To see how a Brand Vision helps to frame the brand plan, read the following presentation: 

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders. Click on any of the topics below:

To see the training presentations, visit the Beloved Brands Slideshare site at: 

If you or team has any interest in a training program, please contact me at graham@beloved-brands.com

2015x gmr bio.001

Do “Blue Ocean” opportunities really exist? Or is it all just “Red Ocean”?

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

fedex-blue-ocean-strategy-1-638People love brainstorming “blue ocean” ideas where they’ll talk about how to create their own uncontested market space and make competition irrelevant. I’ve participated in those sessions and admit they are a blast. It’s a great tool for opening up business minds that might be stuck, get them out of the usual and explore where else you could go.

At Beloved Brands, we always start with the consumer so that we ensure we are meeting the needs of consumers rather than blindly putting things out into the marketplace that no one wants. However, the second check is the competitive nature of your positioning to make sure I’m not blindly putting things out that someone is already doing. Murder and Strategy have one thing in common, they both start with opportunity. Yes, finding those blue ocean strategies, can create opportunities.However, the reality is that most brands play in a highly competitive space where every gain you make, comes at the expense of someone else, who is also constantly trying to win. Netflix has dramatically impacted network television and movie theatres, Uber is experiencing fights across North America with Taxi companies and Municipal governments and Amazon is fighting against brands selling direct. While you might use Blue Ocean to create these type of ideas, you have to use Red Ocean when you start to run these businesses. Be prepared that anytime you take a dollar away from someone, they will fight back.

How to win in a Red Ocean world

Brands have four choices:  better, different, cheaper of not around for long

The key is to find a unique selling proposition for your brand.  You don’t always need to find a rational point of difference as long as there is room to be emotionally unique.Slide04

Map out everything your consumer wants–all the possible need states. Then map out all the benefits that you and your competitors can do better than anyone else–both functional and emotional zones.  You want to find that intersecting zone where what you can do best matches up to a need state of the consumer. Then find a way to serve that need state to the best of your ability and transform it into an even bigger deal than first meets the eye. Avoid the intersecting zone where your competitor is better than you and please avoid that zone where you and your competition foolishly battle in an area that “no one cares” about. The battle ground zone is where both you and your competition can satisfy the consumer need at an equal rate. To win in this situation, you need to get creative and find ways to out-execute or find some emotional connection that changes the game and makes you the clear winner.

Competitive Warfare

At the start of any strategy definition, you should ask “where are we?” Here are four questions to be asking that force you to choose four possible solutions to each.

  1. What is your current share position in the market?
  2. What is the core strength that your brand can win on?
  3. How tightly connected is your consumer to your brand?
  4. What is the current business situation that your brand faces?

This article focuses on question one which speaks to where you rank in the market, which a great indicator of how much power you can command in the market.  You have four choices, using Marketing Warfare (Trout and Ries) you are either the Leader, Challenger, Niche or a Guerilla.

  • Leader (defensive): Leader of category or sub-category defending their territory by attacking itself or even attacking back at an aggressive competitor.
  • Challenger (offensive): Challenger’s attack on the leader to exploit a weakness or build on your own strength.
  • Flanking: An attack in an open area where the Leader is not that well established.
  • Guerrilla (Niche): Go to an area where it’s too small for the Leaders to take notice or are unable to attack back.

The leader uses defensive strategies

Defensive strategies should be pursued by the leader. Not only the market share leader, but the perceived leader in the consumers’ mind. Attacking yourself is the best defense. Identify and close leaks in service, experience or products. Introduce new products superior to your current. Challenge the culture to step it up to continually get better and stay ahead of the competitors. Can’t be complacent or you’ll die. The Leader blocks all offensive moves. Keep an eye on your competitors moves—and adjust your own brand to ensure you defend against their attacks. Attack back with an even greater force than the one attacking you. Demonstrate your brand power. Leverage all the brand power you’ve mustered to maintain your positional power.Slide1

The challenger brand uses offensive strategies

The best offensive attack is to actually find weakness within the Leader’s strengths. Turn a perceived strength around is very powerful. Attack a weakness might be insufficient. Be careful of the Leader’s Defensive moves. Anticipate a response with full force—possibly even greater than yours. Avoid wars that drain resources and hold same share after the war. Attack on as narrow of a front as possible to ensure your resources are put to that area—which might be more force than the leader puts to that one area. Narrow attacks are effective when the leader tries to be all things to all people—enabling you to slice off a part of their business before they can defend it. Leapfrog Strategy, technology and business models are game-changers in the category.Slide2

The flanker brand stays clear of any battles

The flanker strategies go to uncontested areas, in the safety where the leader is not competing. Make sure you are the first in this area. Speed and surprise can help win the uncontested area before the Leaders take notice. Make your move quickly and stealthfully. Follow through matters, to defend the area you’ve won. Others may follow—whether it’s the leader trying to use their might or copy cats looking for an early win. You can win with new targets, price points (premium or value), distribution channels, format or positioning. Flanking, while lower risk of attack from the leader, is a higher risk with consumers because innovation is always riskier because consumers might not like the concept.

Guerrilla warfare wins where no one notices or cares

Pick a segment small enough that it won’t be noticed and you’ll be able to defend it. Be aggressive. Put all your resources against this small area, so that you’ll have the relative force of a major player. Be flexible and nimble. You’ll need to enter quickly to seize an opportunity that others aren’t noticing, but also be ready to exit if need be—whether the consumers change their minds or competitors see an opportunity to enter. Explore non-traditional marketing techniques to get your brand message out and your brand into the market quickly. Because you’re playing in a non-traditional market, you’ll be given leeway on the tools you use. For Guerrilla brands, it is better to be loved by the few, than liked or tolerated by many.Slide1

Marketing Warfare Rules for Success

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

In a red ocean world, you need to efficiently own your territory and ruthlessly beat your competitors.

Do you want to be an amazing Brand Leader?  We can help you.

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

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 graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

2015x gmr bio.001

Can Donald Trump manage his outspoken chaos and win?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

The Donald Trump brand has clearly captivated America, dominated the media, polarized the electorate and rallied those who hate politics. And it’s now rallying those who hate Trump.

It has confused the political pundits and media experts, who are in shock that he’s leading the polls. Trump’s performance raises lots of questions: Can Trump keep up his controversial voice over the next 16 months, without self-destructing or wearing out his audience? Can Trump increase his following from that of a niche “challenger” type brand to being a mass “leader” type brand? While Trump now has a following, can he overcome his huge negatives and actually win? 

At Beloved Brands, we look at all types of brands and see what we can learn. This is our first politician we’ve covered, so bear with us. If you can’t see straight when reading a branding article about Trump, I suggest you stop reading. I’m just a marketer so this article will only talk about the Trump brand, not about the Trump politics. Plus, I’m Canadian so I’m not even a voter.

Love him or hate him. Trump 2016 is fascinating and offers plenty of lessons for brand leaders either running a brand or trying to create their own personal brand.

As Marketers, what can we learn from Trump?

  • Trump has a focused and clearly defined target market and he is not afraid to alienate those not in his target. We will call Trump’s core target market the “grumpy old men”, who are mad at all the changes over the years that have weakened America. But Trump is now connecting with a broader group of “disenfranchised Americans” that have struggled over the past 15 years. Trump has shown no fear of going after the enemy of his target:  illegal immigration. It’s a hot button with the “grumpy old men” but also for those “disenfranchised”. But the immigration policy is highly risky, potentially alienated many hispanic voters, who are approximately 22% of voters. While the issue reduces the size of “where will Trump play” to 78% of voters, his calculation likely assumes he’d be no where without that issue. The lesson for marketers: never be afraid to alienate consumers as long as you are passionately connecting with your core consumers. I once had a Brand Leader tell me that their target market was, “18-65, new potential customers, current customers and employees”. My sarcastic response was, “you’ve left out tourists and prisoners?” Every brand has limited resources (financial, people, time, partners) and spreading those limited resources across an entire population is resource prohibitive. While targeting everyone “just in case” might safe at first, it’s actually less safe because you never get to see the full impact. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focusing all your attention on those that can love you. Trying to be everything to anyone ends up being nothing to everyone. Be honest in assessing your brand’s assets and then match those assets up to who is most likely to be motivated enough to buy your brand.
  • Trump is “different”. While every politician takes the “I’m an outsider to Washington” strategy, normally it’s said by a Governor or Senator–who are just as bad as those inside the beltway of DC. Trump is the only true outsider–never having ventured into politics in his life. When people lay claim to come from industry, Trump can own this, since he truly is industry. Beyond the classification, Trump comes across as the anti-politician, almost saying and doing everything “wrong”, but that’s part of his “charm”. The lesson for marketers: Brands have four choices: better, different, cheaper or not around for very long. You have to take a stand on finding what makes you unique. Unless you have a true technical advantage, being different is a much more powerful space to own than trying to be better, especially when it’s difficult to prove that you are better. When I look at market research, one number I love to look at is “made the brand seem different”. 
  • Trump has a focused 7-second Big Idea brand message, that’s easily explained and understood. 885734_1280x720“Make America great again” speaks to the idea that he wants to turn back the clock to a different time–likely to the 80s and 90s when American capitalism of Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton made America the one super power in the world. It’s an idea and not just a slogan. What’s Jeb’s brand in 7-seconds? His website say “I’m Jeb Bush and I’m asking for your support”. There’s not even a benefit in that statement.  Trump’s idea stands out as it will alienate the liberal left that organized and supported the Occupy movement a few years ago. Heck, Trump is the 0.000001% and makes no apologies for it. The lesson for marketers: are you able to describe your brand’s big idea in 7 seconds? And then, do you live up to it? Here’s when you need a 7 second pitch: a) In your advertising, it should be the idea line at the end of the TV ad, the billboard ad in Times Square or the button on Facebook. b) Internally, this is the rallying cry to R&D to focus their innovation, to HR on building the culture and to Senior Leaders for how to define the brand to everyone in the company. c) In sales, this is your opening line to the buyer or store manager or the dentist you’re trying to get to recommend your product. d) Even personally, at the start of the job interview, you should lead off with a 7 second pitch that describes yourself (e.g. I’m a marketer that finds growth where others can’t) At Beloved Brands, we believe that you should build everything on your brand around a Big Idea. Consumers want consistency from the brand. Constant changes to the advertising, packaging or delivery can be frustrating to consumers. Leverage a Brand Story and a Big Idea that balances rational and emotional benefits to help establish and build a much tighter relationship. Once you establish your big idea, line up everything under it, including your brand positioning, communication, innovation, in-store and the overall experience you create. So, what is your 7-second big idea for your brand?
  • Trump has used a marketing strategy that started with the love of a few followers, and created a momentum to gather more followers.creating beloved brands 2015x.049 If we use the Brand Love Curve above, Trump entered the race at the Indifferent or Like It stage for most voters, but he had a very small group of core loyal supporters who loved him. He used the Immigration Issue to immediately separate himself from the pack, giving him a tight connection with the “grumpy old men” who love him. Once it created a news story, it allowed Trump to use the Immigration issue to reach others and connect with them–particularly the “disenfranchised Americans” who were indifferent to Trump at first, but have since moved to Like Him or Love Him. The lesson for Marketers: you can leverage your following from those that already love your brand to create an even bigger following. Line ups follow line ups. This has been the strategy for a few populous brands like Apple and Starbucks the past 5-10 years as they’ve shifted from a cool challenger type brand with a core base of artist-type users that love the brand to becoming a mass brand that any demographic or profession can love.
  • Trump’s media execution and leverage of the media has been brilliant (so far). He’s dominated the news media every week. He’s consistently stayed on brand, with very few wobbles. Here’s how I would define the Trump brand character: Trump is that outspoken (loud mouth), strong-willed (over-bearing), highly accomplished (almost pompous) business leader from the opulent days of the 1980’s (the 1%). It will be a challenge for Trump to maintain this type of media execution–as most PR agencies tell you to “be careful”, yet Trump has to be the opposite. He had a post debate wobble when he attacked Fox’s announcer Megyn Kelly. It didn’t really do him any good, but he seems to have gotten past it without much damage. One thing Trump should never do is apologize as it would go against his brand. Voters who are connecting with Trump like his outspoken voice because he is saying what they wish they could say. And if he apologizes they’ll feel bad for thinking exactly what he has already said. Think of it as the “Andrew Dice Clay effect”: He was funny, until he told us he was sorry (and cried) then we felt bad for laughing and then he wasn’t funny anymore.
  • Trump’s entry into the Presidential race has broken every normal rule. For instance, on his recent visit to Iowa, he landed at a state fair in a Helicopter, brought a huge entourage and wore a suit (mind you, he had his baseball cap on). Trump’s rhetoric and style are so different from the usual politicians that his competitors (Jeb Bush or Scott Walker) don’t know how to deal with him. The lesson for Marketers: when you enter a new category, being the rule breaker sets you up as different. The launch of the iPhone was so different that the CEO of Blackberry laughed. When Starbucks launched the $4 latte, coffee competitors had no idea how to react. The launches of Amazon, Netflix and Uber have created such confusion among the incumbent brands, they don’t even know what to do. As you enter a new category, what rules will you break and how will you use that to your advantage?

But can he actually win?

The only way he wins is if he goes mainstream. And if he goes mainstream, the Trump brand will die. Like everyone that enters the race, his obvious brand vision is to win the Presidential election. (Or is it?) As the challenger brand, he’s captured a significant niche of frustrated voters. But while owning a niche is a great brand strategy for gaining share and effectively destroying your competitors, it isn’t enough to achieve your vision of winning the race. At some point, Trump needs to shift to being a mass brand and I’m not yet sure that’s possible. The only way to become mass is to become more mainstream and that risks going completely against the controversial Trump brand he’s created. Won’t a mainstream Trump brand be so watered-down that it would die?

Trump is looking at the wrong data points. He needs to reduce the negatives before focusing on the positives. While Trump keeps telling everyone he’s winning, as his support numbers has grown to 25% of the Republican side of the race, the real number they have to manage is the high 62% of voters who reject Trump, saying they’d never vote for Trump. If he can’t get that number down below 50, he’ll never have a chance to go beyond a novelty act. The issue in this election is that both parties are burdened by high un-likability numbers, with Hillary’s un-approval ratings above 50%. With all these high negatives, maybe all parties might like the idea that they won’t need a voter majority to win.

Can Trump maintain this level of chaos or will the Trump brand eventually fizzle? Trump has shown no signs of reducing the chaos, no signs of going mainstream and no signs of apologizing. That just leaves one alternative: voters get tired of Trump before election day. It’s hard to keep up such a long tenure of organized chaos to stay in the news while avoiding being attacked by the news. Lots of celebrities have tried this and it ended up biting them eventually. The brash “shock humor”  tends to wear out just as fast as it entered. Trump may finally say something so offensive that people want off the bandwagon for fear of association. Can Trump sustain this level of controlled chaos that connects with the disenfranchised voters? Election day is a long way away. My guess is he fizzles.   

Will Trump go third party still?  Every Republican beyond the voters seem to be against Trump, so let’s assume he’ll eventually lose the nomination. With Trump’s ego, he won’t be able to resist going as a third-party candidate.. And if we look to the 1992 results, it’s possible Trump could replicate Ross Perot’s support and get 18% of the vote. While that doesn’t win, it certainly changes the election as the other two will really be playing to see who can get over 41% instead of over 50%. So that brings us back to Trump’s real vision. Does he really want to be President or does he just want to disrupt the election?

Who will save this mess? And for everyone but Trump, this sure is a mess. The first two weeks of a campaign can make or break the candidate. Both Scott Walker and Jeb Bush must be disappointed with their performance, completely over-shadowed by Trump.They also bombed in the debate. Trump may not win the race, but he has possibly destroyed everyone else’s chances of winning. Maybe the next President isn’t even in the race yet?  

Love him or hate him, the Trump brand is fascinating. Many of us are starting to ask “can he actually win?”

To read more on how to create a personal brand, here’s a training workshop we lead with brand leaders around the world:

Also, if you’re interesting in Beloved Brands Training Programs for brand management, feel free to contact us to learn about our one day or three day boot camps for brand leaders. We believe that better leaders make better work which produces better results. Here’s more information.

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 graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 39112015x gmr bio.001