When your brand is liked, but not loved

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

308040_478690928818846_943242162_nAs we dive deeper into brand love, we need to set up the Brand Love Curve as a core foundation that we use in every part of this book. In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from “Indifferent” where consumers have no opinion to the “Like It” stage where consumers have a rational connection up to the “Love It” stage where consumers start to crave it and develop an emotional connection and finally up to becoming a “Beloved Brand” for life, where consumers are outspoken fans with a deeply emotional cult-like connection to the brand. Slide1


Don’t feel bad about being at the “Like It” stage, because that’s where most brands sit. But it does mean that you might not be making the most out of the potential of your brand. You have been able to carve out a niche and be a chosen brand against a proliferation of other brands in the category. You have good shares, moderate profits and most brand indicators are probably reasonably healthy. It’s just that no one loves you. You are likely not really doing enough in your marketing to create a bond with consumers. Consumers see your brand as a functional and rational choice. They tried it and it makes sense so they buy it feeling that it meets a basic need. But, consumers don’t have much of an emotional connection or feeling about the brand. You you are seen as ordinary, which is just a little bit better than indifferent.

There are seven reasons why you are at the “Like It” stage:

  1. Protective brand leaders leads to “caution”:  While many of these brands at the Like It are successful, they get stuck because of overly conservative and fearful Brand Managers, who pick middle of the road strategies and execute “ok” ideas. On top of this, Brand Managers who convince themselves that “we stay conservative because it’s a low-interest category” should be removed. Low interest category does not mean you just give up. It means you need to do even more to captivate the consumer.
  2. Rational thinking marketers means “boring”: Those marketers that believe they are strictly rational are inhibiting their brands. They lack passion. Boring brand leaders produce boring brands. dont be boring.001The brand managers get so jazzed on claims, comparatives, product demonstration and doctor recommended, that they forget about the emotional side of the purchase decision. Claims need to be twisted into benefits—both rational and emotional benefits. Consumers don’t care about you do until you care about what they need. Great marketers find that balance of the science and art of the brand. Ordinary marketers get stuck with the rational only. 
Don`t get stuck with just features and claims. Match them up to consumer needs and create rational benefits and then dial them up to emotional benefits.
  3. New brand with momentum: Stage 2 of a new brand innovation is ready to expand from the early adopters to the masses. The new brand begins to differentiate itself in a logical way to separate themselves from the proliferation of copycat competitors. Consumers start to go separate ways as well. Retailers might even back one brand over another. Throughout the battle, the brand carves out a base of consumers. As your new brand continues to gain momentum, now is the time to layer in the emotional benefits, look to find a small growing army who love the brand.
  4. There’s a major Leak:  If you look at the brand buying system, you’ll start to see a major leak at some point where you keep losing customers. Most brands have some natural flaw—whether it’s the concept, the product, taste profile, ease of use or customer service. Without addressing the leak, the brand gets stuck. People like it, but refuse to love it.
  5. Brand changes their mind every year:  Brands need consistency. When the promise and the delivery of the promise changes every year it’s hard to really connect with the brand. A brand like Wendy’s has changed their advertising message every year over the past 10 years. The only consumers remaining are those who like their burgers, not the brand.
  6. Positional Power so you think “who needs love?”:  There are brands that have captured a strong positional power, whether it`s a unique technology or distribution channel or even value pricing advantage. Brands like Microsoft or Walmart or even many of the pharmaceuticals products don`t see value in the idea of being loved. The problem is when you lose the positional power, you lose your customer base completely.
  7. Brands who capture love, but don’t impact the life ritual: There are brands that quickly capture the imagination of consumers but somehow fail to capture a routine embedded in the consumers’ life. Whether it’s Krispy Kreme, Pringles or even Cold Stone Ice Cream, there’s something inherent in the brand’s format or weakness that holds it back. It might be loved, but just not often enough. Out of sight, out of mind, means you almost forget you love them.

Here are the indicators that your brand is at the “Like It” stage:

  • Low conversion to purchase: While the brand looks healthy in terms of awareness and tracking scores, the brand keeps losing out to the competition as the consumer goes to the purchase stage. It usually requires a higher trade spend to close that sale which cuts price and margins.
  • Brand doesn’t feel different enough: An important advertising tracking score to watch is “made the brand seem different” which helps separate the brand from the pack. When you’re a rational message, you won’t see this score break through.
  • Stagnant market shares: When you’re a liked brand, gains you make are offset by losses on something else. Your brand team is content when they hold onto their share, content to grow with the category.
  • High private label sales: If you only focus on the ingredients and the rational features of the product, the consumer will start to figure out they can get the same thing with the private label and the share starts to creep up to 20% and higher.

Here’s some challenges for how to get to the “Love It” stage:

  1. Build a bigger following by driving deeper consideration and purchase:  Begin to sell the brand’s benefits as solutions, not just the product. Invest in building an emotional brand story that helps to drive increased popularity and entices new consumers.
  2. Begin to leverage those people that already love:  Focus on the most loyal consumers and drive a deeper connection by driving the routine which should increase usage frequency.  On top of that, begin cross selling to capture a broader type of usage for the brand.
  3. Love the work: It is time to dial up the passion that goes into the marketing execution. The most beloved brands have a certain magic to them. However, “Like It’ brands tend to settle for ok, rather than push for great. With better work, you’ll be able to better captivate and delight the consumers. If you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand.
  4. Fix the leak: Brands that are stuck have something embedded in the brand or the experience that is holding back the brand. It frustrates consumers and restricts them from fully committing to making the brand a favorite.  Be proactive by fixing the leak.
  5. Build a Big Idea: Consumers want consistency from the brand as constant changes to the advertising, packaging or delivery can be frustrating. Build everything around a big idea, including the brand story, the innovation and experience to establish a consistency for the brand and help build a much tighter relationship.

Brands at the “Like It” stage get complacent. You need to disrupt the marketing team to focus on driving passion into the work. You need find a better balance between rational and emotional benefits. 

Find your love by showing more love for your consumers

Here’s a workshop we run on creating a beloved brand. We hope it provokes you to think differently so you can see how you can unleash the full power and profitability of your brand.

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential.

BBI ads for 2015.003

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

New 2015 Bio .001


Boring people make boring brands that die

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

dont be boring.001

You have to love WHAT you do and live WHY you do it.

Being boring will kill your brand. Not just boring people, but boring minds. Marketers in the new world need to be fueled by their passion and put everything they have into their work. They need to be guided by an underlying purpose for why they do what they do. Brand Leaders need to learn how to be a visionary, creative, emotional, demanding brand driven leader, and avoid being a boring, rational, product driven manager. Everyday, you need to get to the point where you say “I love it”, which is the best bar for making great work. If you don’t love what you do, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand. Where passion meets purpose, you will find that passion is dialed up to  new level when you know why you do what you do. It will consume you, energize you, fuel you and push you to go from good to great.

Brand Love is the new currency.

The more LOVED a brand is by consumers, the more POWERFUL and PROFITABLE that brand will be. Brands move along the BRAND LOVE CURVE, increasing the bond they have with consumers as they move from ‘Indifferent’ to ‘Like It’ to ‘Love It’ and finally to the ‘Beloved Brand’ stage. Boring brands get stuck at ‘Indifferent’ or ‘Like It’, while the most beloved brands are interesting, engaging and break through the clutter. The tight bond beloved brands create with consumers becomes a source of power that makes your brand more powerful in every point of negotiation, whether that is with the very consumers that love you, who feel more and think less, with competitors who can’t figure out how to duplicate the emotional bond you have created, with suppliers just dying to be part of your team, with any form of media who want to showcase your story and with any key influencer that wants to spread your story. Once you have power, and win every negotiation point, the money will flow in, with higher price points, lower costs, more share and an easy entry into new categories.Beloved Brands Summary Tools.002

Consumers love Ideas. They like products.

In a crowded branded marketplace, where we see 5000 brand messages a day, consumers connect with BIG IDEAS that help simplify brand messages in ways that is easily understood and remembered. Boring brands sell products, while beloved brands create big idea that are own-able in the consumers’ mind and heart and served up in a motivating enough message that changes consumer beliefs and behaviors. The role of the BIG IDEA is to simplify the brand message with an outward expression of the BRAND SOUL, which is a collection why you do what you do (purpose) what is important to you (values) and how you can help consumers (role).Beloved Brands Summary Tools.004

Consumers love brands who love them

For beloved brands, everything has to start and end with the consumer in mind. Boring brands get stuck talking about themselves all the time, almost forgetting about the consumer. They talk endlessly about features and claims. Boring brands try to be everything to everyone, and end up nothing to anyone. Beloved brands get in the shoes of your consumer and speak in their voice. You need to define a very focused target market, and using consumer insights and consumer enemy to connect with consumers. Boring brands are consumed while beloved brands are experienced. When consumers experience the brand, they either accept or reject it based on how it matches up to the Big Idea. Consumers who are continually satisfied become loyal and develop a bond with brand. Consumers transform this bond into a reputation they spread. The idealized state for a brand is when the brand reputation perfectly matches up to the brand soul. To ensure delivery of the brand’s Soul, you need to line up all 5 consumer touch points underneath simple Big Idea. Create a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, based on being better, different or cheaper. Use your brand story to motivate consumers to think, feel or act, while beginning to own a reputation in the mind and hearts of consumers. A fundamentally sound product, staying at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise. The moment of truth as consumers move through the purchase cycle and use channels, messaging, processes to make the final decision. Turn the usage of your product into an experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of their day. 

big idea map new 2015.001

The desire to be loved guides your brand’s strategy and execution

Boring brand leaders get stuck in the analytics, but a good brand funnel system should allow  you to measure and track brand love. Brand funnel becomes thicker as the brand becomes more loved. It’s not just about driving particular numbers but about moving them from one stage to the next. To drive TRIAL you need to gain CONSIDERATION first (the brain) and then you need to move the consumer towards purchase and through the experience. To drive LOYALTY (the heart) you need to create experiences that deliver the promise and use tools to create an emotional bond with the consumer. AWARENESS is never enough, anyone can get that. But consideration is the point you start to see that your brand idea starts to connect and move the consumer. We can see below how you can use voice of consumer and market indicators to determine where you are on the brand love curve.

measuring brand love.001

We use where you are on the Brand Love Curve to focus your brand on what strategy to guide your next move. This can help provide your overall focus of the strategy. Brands at the Indifferent stage should be trying to establish the brand in the consumers mind, but those at the Like It stage that want to go to the next stage have to create a bigger following by trying find a way to separate your brand from others. Brands at the Love It stage should tug at heartstrings of their consumers to tighten bond with your most loyal. And those brands at the Beloved stage should be trying to continue the magic and get loyalists to speak on your behalf. We’ve mapped out 16 core brand strategies to help guide your brand plans.love strategies.001Once you know the overall strategy, you can begin mapping where your consumer stands on the Brand Love Curve and begin layering in the execution. We use a consumer buying system that reflects the brand funnel and provide executional options to power each part of the buying system. Brands at the indifferent stage should focus on managing the awareness-consideration-search, while brands at the Like It stage should be looking to separate your brand from others and close the deal at the purchase moment. As it moves to the Love It stage, it becomes about turning satisfied consumers into repeating and loyal, while the Beloved stage turns loyalty into outspoken fans that then drive awareness for other consumers. We see the power of the most beloved brands using social media as a tool for influencing awareness among new potential users. I’m still in shock when I see loved brands continue to spend 100% of their money on awareness driving TV ads with a basic product message. WE KNOW WHAT YOU DO–YOU HAVE TOLD US FOR 40 YEARS!!!ad execution.003

When judging execution, you should THINK with strategy and GO with your instincts. Great marketing should attract attention, be about the brand, communicate the story, and stick in the consumers mind. Boring brand leaders get stuck over thinking things and forget their instincts. Or they think about what others will think. The best brand leaders find ways to balance their thinking and instincts, to follow their passion. When thinking, we recommend you ask two questions: Is it on strategy and does it have long-term potential to help the brand?  When going with instincts, you should ask “do you love it and try to assess your gut feel for if it’s good. Strategy is based on slow reflective thinking and instincts are fast responsive thinking. Learn to do both.

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We hope we’ve shown you how brand love can carry throughout every part of running your brand. Follow your passion by loving everything you do. Let your purpose guide your energy every day by living why you do it.

Stop being boring. Get people to fall in love with your brand

Here’s a workshop we run on helping brands find brand love. We hope it provokes you to think differently so you can see how you can unleash the full power and profitability of your brand.

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential.BBI ads for 2015.003

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

New 2015 Bio .001

The best Political Ad this year is for a guy not even in the race (yet)

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

29913743001_4538072987001_video-still-for-video-4538052437001At Beloved Brands, we look at all types of brands and see what we can learn. We’ve done a few on politics this year, but you’ll notice that we never pick sides. If you can’t see straight when reading a branding article about politics, I suggest you stop reading. I’m just a marketer so this article will only talk about political brands, not about the policies of politics. Plus, I’m Canadian so I’m not even a voter in the US–I can remain objective.

Yes, the Donald Trump brand has clearly captivated America, dominated the media, polarized the electorate and rallied those who hate politics. What I like best about Trump is that his campaign has a Big Idea: Trump has a focused 7-second Big Idea brand message, that’s easily explained and understood. “Make America great again”. But Trump’s communication strategy has been largely based on provocative comments in the media, his Twitter handle and some great one-liners at the debates.

But the best ad I’ve seen this year has to go to someone not even in the race:  Joe Biden. This ad ran during the Democratic Debate last night and again this morning during the morning newscast. It’s paid for by DraftBiden, a super-PAC trying to garner momentum behind his candidacy for President.

Joe is a great storyteller, with amazing natural warmth. This ad uses one of Joe’s speeches, telling a story of his dad and how the lessons he learned impacts his fight for the average working American. It reminds me of the Dodge Ram’s “God Made a Farmer” Super Bowl ad, which used a similar style of photos over top of a Paul Henry’s voice. The quietness of the ad captures your attention and the story holds your attention. It’s not really going to change your view on Joe Biden, or Hillary Clinton. It’s targeted to Joe’s biggest supporters to get them to hold off committing to a candidate until Joe makes his inevitable entrance into the race.

Interestingly enough, this ad is a replacement for another emotional ad, using Joe’s voice telling another story. But Draft Biden pulled the ad after an aide to the vice president expressed Biden’s desire for the ad not to run, saying it tread on “sacred ground.”  It featured the story of Biden’s personal experience with tragedy after the death of his first wife, Neilia, and 1-year-old daughter Naomi in a 1972 car crash. Watch below and you can see how this might be a bit “too personal”.

Politically, Joe is likely the backup plan should Hillary Clinton stumble. But these are beautiful ads.

Below is a workshop we run on “How to get great Advertising”: 

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.

BBI ads for 2015.003

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 3911New 2015 Bio .001

The 7 essential elements for good strategic thinking

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Beloved Brands Summary Tools.003As the speed of marketing has increased, many brand leaders have become so fixated on getting things done quickly that they don’t take the time to do the strategic thinking needed to ensure they are choosing the right pathway. The best Brand Leaders know when to be a strategic thinker and when to be an action thinker.

Strategic thinkers methodically see questions before answers. They see “what if” questions before seeing solutions, mapping out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. Time to reflect and plan before acting help you move in a focused efficient fashion. Think slowly, logically, always needing options, but if go too slow, you will miss the opportunity window.

“Action” thinkers instinctually see answers before they know the right questions. They see answers before even knowing the right questions, using instincts and impulse. Any delays will frustrate you, believing that doing something is better than nothing at all. This “make it happen” mode gets things done, but if you go too fast, your great actions will be solving the wrong problem.

Find your balance by thinking slowly with strategy and thinking quickly with your instincts.

The 7 essential elements of good strategic thinking

  1. Vision: An aspirational stretch goal for future, linked to a well-defined purpose. It should push you. It should scare you a little, but excite you a lot.  
  2. Focus: Alignment of your limited resources to a distinct strategic point you wish to penetrate, creating positive momentum on a pathway towards your vision.
  3. Opportunity: Something happening in the market, as a potential strategic opening based on trends in the market (e.g. consumer behavior, technology).
  4. Speed: Like in sports, time and space of the opportunity matter. As soon as you see the opportunity, you must act quickly before others see the same opportunity.
  5. Early win: Break through point where you see a shift in momentum towards your vision. It offers potential proof to everyone that this strategy will work, helping rally others–the team, agency and even your boss.   
  6. Leverage: Ability to turn the early win into creating a momentum, that leads to the tipping point where you achieve more in return than the effort put in.
  7. Gateway: Realization point where you see a shift in positional advantage or power that allows you to believe your vision is achievable.

The Power of Focus

Many Brand Leaders seem to fear focusing, yet focus is essential for strategy to work for you to get more from it, than what you put into it. I once had a Brand Leader list their target as “18-65, current customers, potential customers and employees” and I asked “what about prisoners and tourists?”. I constantly see Brands try to say 5 or 6 things in their message. I see brand leaders with 74 things on their to-do lists. When we realize that every Brand has limited resources (financial, time, effort and alliances) they can apply against an endless list of opportunistic choices (target, message, strategy and activities) do we start to make choices. Strategy is really where you apply your limited resources against pressure points you know you can break through, to gain something bigger than the sum of the resources you put into it.

strat thinking.002Focus makes you matter most to those who care the most. Don’t blindly target consumers:  target the most motivated. Focusing your limited resources on those consumers with the highest motivation and  propensity to buy what you are selling will deliver the highest return on investment. In a competitive category, no one brand can do it all: brands must be better, different or cheaper to survive. Giving the consumer too many messages will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique. Trying to be everything to everyone is the recipe for being nothing. Return on Effort (ROE) is a great tool for focusing your activity.  Doing a laundry list of activity spreads your resources so thin that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”. And in a crowded and fast economy, “ok” never breaks through enough to get the early win and find that tipping point to open up the gateway to even bigger success. strat thinking.001

When you focus, 5 things happen:

  1. Better Return on Investment (ROI):  With all the resources against one strategy, one target, one message, you’ll be able to move consumers enough to drive sales or push other key performance indicators in the right direction.  
  2. Better Return on Effort (ROE): It’s about getting more back than you put into the effort. Working smart helps make the most out of your people resources.
  3. Stronger Reputation: When you only do one thing, you naturally start to become associated with that one thing—externally and even internally.  Reputation is a power you can push to find deeper wins.
  4. More Competitive: As your reputation grows, you begin to own that one thing and you can better defend that positioning territory. You can expose the weakness of your competitors, attract new consumers as well as push internally (R&D, service, sales) to rally behind the newly created reputation. 
  5. Bigger and Better P&L: As the focused effort drives results, it opens up the P&L with higher sales and profits. People with money invest where they see return. 

think and go.001Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions. Ask the right questions to set up the right strategy.

Below is a presentation of a workshop that we run on how to think strategically:

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.

BBI ads for 2015.003

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

New 2015 Bio .001

Special K’s “own it” campaign takes brand into Beloved brand status

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Let’s look at how Special K moved from an indifferent brand to a beloved brand, by empowering women.

Indifferent: Special K was stuck in a rut back in the 80s and 90s

I worked in the cereal business back at General Mills in the 1990’s and we never thought anything about Special K. It just sat there with a very small and dying share. Special K was just the one flavor of cereal.

  • Zero innovation. 
  • Just Rice Krispies crushed differently.
  • No big idea.
  • Weight loss feature. 

But the ads were focused on 110 calories and a de-motivating “pinch an inch”. Basically just a problem and a feature. Not a solution or benefit. 

Here’s a Special K ad from the 1980s and you’ll see why competitors were not very worried.

As you can see, it was  all about the brand: feature, feature, feature. So many messages jammed into one ad. This is a classic example why no one cares what you do until you care what they want. No one at Special K put themselves in the shoes of the consumer. They failed to ask “so what do I get?” or “how does this make me feel?”

It was not very empowering for women. 

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve. They move from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved brand for life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings and Consumers become outspoken fans.


In the 1990s, Special K was clearly an Indifferent brand. There was very little consumer opinion about the brand. Those who did buy Special K weren’t exactly the most ardent fans of the brand. Not only was the original flavor fairly bland, everything about the brand was bland. Special K needed to stand for something. It needed an idea. 

The most beloved brands build everything around a Big Idea

With such a cluttered market, consumers need everything simplified, just to engage. Consumers connect with a brand’s BIG IDEA simplifies the message. It makes it easy to explain. It transforms the brand’s SOUL into a brand REPUTATION that you can build behind. 

In too many situations I see, the story meanders and changes as it gets bigger. To ensure delivery of the brand’s Soul, line up all 5 brand magic moments underneath your Big Idea. This includes the brand promise, story, innovation, purchase moment and experience.

big idea map new 2015.001

What you want to do is create a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, based on being better, different or cheaper. Use your brand story to motivate consumers to think, feel or act, while beginning to own a reputation in the mind and hearts of consumers. Make sure you have a fundamentally sound product, using innovation to stay at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise. The purchase moment of truth as consumers move through the purchase cycle and use channels, messaging, processes to make the final decision. Turn the usage of your product into an experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of their day.

A loved brand: The re-birth of Special K

Before we get to the “own it” idea, I need to acknowledge the last 15 years of great work on Special K. It has helped set up the ability to even contemplate something as big as “own it”.

Around 2000, Special K made a dramatic turn in the market. With all the diet-crazed consumers looking for new solutions, Special K had a stroke of brilliance when someone figured out that if you ate Special K twice a day for just two weeks, you could lose up to 6 pounds in 2 weeks. While all the other diet options felt daunting, this felt pretty easy to do.

The big idea for Special K was “Empowering Women to take control of their weight”. 

While Special K had spent decades dancing around the weight loss idea, now they had a Brand Promise that was benefit focused and empowering:  With Special K, just twice a day for 2 weeks, you can lose 6 pounds or better yet, drop a jean size. They stopped talking about the product and starting talking in the voice of the consumer. 

The brilliant strategy is around the usage occasion of the second meal each day. Cereal had been a category that grew +3% for years, steady only with population growth and some demographics around boomers and echo generations. But now, there was finally a reason to eat cereal twice in one day. The communication of the Brand Story become about empowering women to take control using the Two Week Challenge. With a Brand Idea bigger than just a cereal, Special K’s innovation rivaled that of Apple. It started with the launch of Berry Special K that thrust the brand into a good tasting cereal, and has since added bars, shakes and water.

Most recently, they’ve now launched potato chips (only 80 calories for 20 chips) and a Breakfast Sandwich option.  it just goes to show you that it’s not about ‘out of the box’ ideas, but rather how you define the box.  All these product launches are aligned to the idea of empowering women to maintain their weight. The diversified line up beyond cereal helps off-set any sales softness on cereal. And rounding out the Brand Experience is to take the challenge on-line, gives women a community of encouragement to help achieve their personal weight loss goals. Special K has also launched App for smart phones to help monitor weight goals.


A beloved brand: Evolving the Special K brand around a Big idea

Special K has continue to build their Big Idea to where it’s about “inspiring and empowering women to take control and main their healthy body”. For the last 15 years, it’s been all about empowering and control, but the latest work also inspires and challenges women to maintain their healthy body, no matter the “so-called” flaw.

special k idea map.001

The new “own it” idea shifts the brand story from “losing weight” to loving the body you have and making the most of it. We all have flaws, but this beautiful work gets on the side of consumers. It has a bit of Dove and “love who you are” messaging. It’s mixed with a bit Nike and “no excuses” that challenges the consumer to take charge. I love it. 


In the words of Special K: “97% of women have an ‘I hate my body’ moment. Every. Single. Day. We believe that 100% of women have the power to change something more important than the size of their butts. We can change our perspective.”

Special K have done some great print ads in support of the campaign. These bring to life the reality of your body. The y offer the challenge of what you’re willing to do about it.


Some great lessons for other brands.

  • Patiently build your brand. It would have been impossible to move from the 1990s “reduced calorie” brand to the “own it” brand. The middle 15 years transformed the Special K brand to where they could command the power to do this type of work.
  • Be very focused. Speak to a specific target (women 25-45). Speak in their voice will make you a more powerfully connected brand.
  • Be consumer obsessed.  Everything starts and ends with the consumer in mind. Consumers don’t care what you do until you care what they want.  Be benefit focused.
  • Build around a brand idea. It is not out of the box thinking, it’s just re-defining the box to be a bigger idea.

 I hope “own it” inspires and challenges you to find the path to making your brand more loved

Below is a presentation of a workshop that we run on “Creating a beloved brand”:


To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

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

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

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

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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to write a Creative Brief

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers


I wish everyone would stop writing ugly Creative Briefs. The brief is a crucial way for brand leaders to control the strategy, but give freedom on execution to the experts who execute. Too many marketers have this backward, preferring to give freedom on strategy with various possible strategic options layered within the creative brief. They attempt to try to control the creative outcome by writing a long list of tangled mandatories.

When you write a big-wide creative brief with layers of options within the brief, the Agency just peels the brief apart and gives you strategic options. For instance, if you put a big wide target market of 18-55 years-old, your agency will present one ad for 18-25 years-old, another one for 25-40 years-old and the third ad for 40-55 years-old. If you put two objectives into the brief, asking to drive trial and drive usage, you will get one ad idea for driving trial and one ad idea for usage. This means you are picking your brand strategy based on which ad idea you like best. That is wrong. Pick your strategy first and use the creativity of execution to express that strategy.

The creative brief should define “the strategic box” for the creative to play within.

Most great creative advertising people I have met are problem solvers, not inventors. I would describe them as ‘in-the-box’ creative thinkers, not blue sky “out-of-the-box” dreamers. If they need a good problem to solve, then give them your problems, but never your solutions. Never give your creative team a blank slate or blank canvas and ask them to come up with an ad. Use the creative brief to create the right box for them to play in, and to solve your problem. 

When I see marketers writing a big, wide brief with too many objectives, a vague target, and cluttered messaging, I wonder if you have unknowingly created too much strategic freedom. While you might think writing a big, wide creative brief provides room for creativity, it does not. Your agency will see you as confused, and will likely just peel the brief apart, rewrite the brief how they want, then provide you with strategic options, instead of creative options. The problem is that you will be choosing your strategy based on which ad you like. 

When I see marketers write a big, long laundry list of mandatories, everyone knows you are just trying to control the creative output. Do not create a tangled web of mandatories that almost write the ad itself, or you will trap the creative team into taking various elements in the mandatory list and build a Frankenstein-type ad. If you want great work – and I know you do – give your agency the creative freedom they need.

Here is what creative people do not want from you:

  • A Blank canvas: Creative people would prefer a business problem to solve, not a wide-open request for advertising options.
  • An unclear problem: Creative people need a tightly defined and focused problem to generate great work that meets your needs.
  • A long list of mandatories: Do not create a tangled web of mandatories that almost write the ad itself. These lists only trap the creative team, holding them back from doing anything breakthrough, surprising or spectacular.
  • Your Solutions: Creative people find it demotivating to be asked for their expertise (solving problems) and then not be fully utilized (given your answer).

Keep the brief small

A smart Creative Brief should be brief, not long. Avoid the “Just in Case” list by taking your pen and stroking a few things off your creative brief! It is always enlightening when you tighten your Creative Brief. Make tough decisions of what goes into the brief, so you narrow the brief down to:

  • One objective
  • One desired consumer response
  • One target tightly defined
  • One main benefit
  • Up to two main reasons to believe

How to write smarter creative briefs:

1. Define a tight target: 

  • Do not spread your limited resources against a target so broad that it leaves everyone thinking your message is for someone else. Target the people who are the most motivated by what your brand does best, and make your brand feel personal so your target consumer feels special. A brand must make consumers think, “This brand is for me.” 

2. Drive one objective at a time:

  • Build advertising that gets consumers to do only one thing at a time, whether it’s something you want them to see, think, do, or feel, or influence their friends. Force yourself to make a decision that links the advertising objective with your brand strategy.  

3. Drive one main message at a time: 

  • Do not put so many messages into your ad; consumers will see and hear a cluttered mess. They will shut down their minds and reject your ad. They will not know what you stand for, and you will never build a reputation for anything. 

4. Talk about consumer benefits, not about your product features: 

  • Start a conversation that shows what the consumers get or how they will feel. Do not just yell features at the consumer. Use your brand idea to simplify and organize your brand messaging. 

How to transform your strategy into a creative brief

Let’s look at the seven questions of the brand communications plan 

  1. Who is in our consumer target?  
  2. What are we are selling?  
  3. Why should they believe us?  
  4. What is our organizing brand idea?
  5. What do we need our advertising to do? 
  6. What do we want people to think, feel or do?  
  7. Where will our consumer be most receptive to see and act upon our brand message?

Do the strategic homework you developed through the brand communications plan, and begin to populate the 12 questions of your creative brief.

Our Creative Brief format

A well written creative brief takes everything you know about the brand and strategically desire, and distills it down to 1 page. Here’s an example of a good creative brief template:

Our mini brief format

Going too fast sometimes takes too long. With the explosion of media options, timing is everything. Unfortunately, there are too many “phone call briefs” happening. Even worse, no brief at all.  

Without a brief, too many things could go wrong. When you see the creative options, you have to rely on your memory and instincts. When you try to present it to your boss, there is nothing to guide them through their decision-making. One round of rejection by your boss, and you will be wondering why you did not just take the 15-30 minutes to organize your thoughts and write a mini brief. 

If your brand has a solid brand communications plan, you should be able to create a mini brief with a clear objective, consumer target and insight, the desired response, and the main message.


Read more about how to write a mini brief

Our Beloved Brands marketing training program

This type of thinking is in my book, Beloved Brands

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

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

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

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