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

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How to build an Innovation Plan that fuels brand growth

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Never let innovation for a brand be something that happens randomly. It should fit strategically under the brand. At Beloved Brands, we believe the best brands build everything that touches the brand around a Big Idea, that guides the 5 magic moments to create a beloved brand, including the brand promise, brand story, innovation, purchase moment and the brand experience.5 moments.001

When we take the 5 brand connectors above, we start to see how the big idea should guide every part of the organization, the promise is the positioning, the brand story becomes the marketing communication, the innovation helps frame what R&D should be focused on, the purchase moment connects the sales team to the channel strategy while the experience impacts the operations and culture of everyone in your organization.

idea map.001

Taking that one step farther, we can see how the idea drives every part of your organization. If any employee connected to a brand, is not focused on their role in delivering the big Idea, they are not doing their jobs properly. Everyone should be looking to that brand idea as the beacon for how to focus their work.

big idea mgmt of the org.001

Innovation has to fit under the Big Idea. In nearly every organization, R&D is a separate function reporting up through the President, with the R&D head usually being a peer to the CMO. As the Brand Leader, beneath the CMO, you need to influence, manage and even direct your R&D counterparts to ensure they are focused on your brand strategy, We recommend every brand should have a 5-year Brand Strategy Road Map (see below) that has a combination of key elements of the brand plan such as vision, purpose, strategies and tactics matched up with the 5 connectors under the Big Idea. Slide11

The Innovation Plan

For most brands, your plan should have a separate innovation strategy that looks at new products, processes, methods and claims. The Innovation Plan falls under the Brand Plan and the strategies should align to the Brand Strategic Road Map. To build an effective Innovation Plan, we recommend that you explore the following: 

  1. The strategic role of innovation
  2. The art of being different
  3. Building an Innovation process

1. What’s the strategic role of Innovation 

As you’re looking at your brand strategy, you need to look at the brand from all sides. Here are four questions to be asking that force you to choose four possible solutions to each.


  • What is your current share position in the market? Where you rank is 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. The challenger type brands should to look at innovation as a strategic tool to break through with consumers and help separate itself from the leader. Conversely, the leader must quickly match every innovation the challenger puts forward to thwart them from gaining a competitive advantage.
  • What is the core strength that your brand can win on? Most brands should have a focus to what they win on, either winning on product, idea, experience or price. Product driven brands should focus on superiority, ensuring you invest in product Innovation to stay ahead of competitors. Conversely, experience brands should look at process innovation focused on making the experience even better–speed, simplicity and added service. Idea brands should build the innovation in support of building the idea, making sure that you continue to focus on “being different”. And for price brand, the innovation should drive cost out of the system.
  • How tightly connected is your consumer to your brand?Consumers move along a “Brand Love Curve”, as they become more connected to Brands, their feelings and behavior changes. We believe that brands move from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally to the Beloved stage. Where you are on the brand love curve should frame how you look at innovation. Brands at the indifferent stage should be looking to innovation as a tool to create some point of difference in the consumers mind, at the Like It stage you should use innovation to help separate the brand and create a following, and then as the brand moves to the Love It stage use innovation to build an emotional connection and turn your product into an experience. Finally, for a brand at the Beloved stage, you can use Innovation as a way to surprise and delight the consumer, as well as using innovation to attack yourself to improve yourself.Slide1
  • What is the current business situation that your brand faces? As your plans are designed to move your brand, you need to understand where they are before you can decide where you want to move them.

2. The art of being different

The classic launch formula we have all seen: do the basic product concept testing, hope for amoderate pass. Then meet with sales and explain how this is almost identical to the launch we did last year, and builds on the same thing we just saw our competitor do. Re-enforce that the buyer hinted that if we did this, we’d get on the shelves pretty easily. Go to your ad agency, with a long list of mandatories and an equally long list of benefits they can put in the ad. Tell the agency you’reexcited. They’ll tell you they’re excited as well. Ask for lots of options, as a pre-caution because time is tight and we’re not sure what we want. Just hope the agency clearly understood the 7-page brief. Test all the ads, even a few different endings, and then let the research decide who wins. That way, no one can blame you. Do up a safe media plan with mostly TV, some small but safe irrelevant secondary media choice. Throw in a web site to explain the 19 reasons why we launched. Maybe even a game on the website. Ah, we have our launch.

With the current economy, shouldn’t we be taking more risks to stand out and not playing it safe right down the middle of the road?

Push yourself to be different. The most Beloved Brands are different, better or cheaper. Or not around for very long.

Think about 4 possible types of launches:

  1. Good but Not Different
  2. Not Good and Not Different
  3. Different but not Good
  4. Good and Different


  • Good But Not Different (the launch outlined above): These do very well in tests mainly because consumers have seen it before and check the right boxes in research. In market, it gets off to a pretty good start—since it still seems so familiar. However, once challenged in the market by a competitor, it falters because people start to realize it is no different at all. So they go back to their usual brand and your launch starts to go flat. This option offers limited potential.
  • Not Good and Not Different: These are the safest of safe. Go back into the R&D lab and pick the best one you have–even if it’s not very good. They do pretty well in test because of the familiarity. In market, it gets off to a pretty good start, because it looks the same as what’s already in the market. But pretty soon, consumers realize that it’s the same but even worse, so it fails dramatically. What appears safe is actually highly risky. You should have followed your instincts and not launched. This option is a boring failure.
  • Different but Not that Good: Sometimes we get focused on the product first: it offers superior technology, but not really meeting an unmet need. So we launch what is different for the sake of being different. It does poorly in testing. Everyone along the way wonders why we are launching. But in the end, consumers don’t really care about your point of difference. And it fails. The better mousetrap that no one cares about.
  • Good But Different: These don’t always test well: consumers don’t really know what to make of it. Even after launched, it takes time to gain momentum, having to explain the story with potential investment and effort to really make the difference come to life. But once consumers start to see the differences and how it meets their needs, they equate different with “good”. It begins to gain share and generates profits for the brand. This option offers long-term sustainability.

3. Innovation Process

It’s important that you make innovation part of the culture, with
regular brainstorming, consistent stages of approval and a certain diligence and oversight on decisions. While innovation takes creative energy, it should never be a random process (unless you are 3M)


  • Identify New Opportunities: It’s crucial that you are constantly listening, observing and identifying consumer needs, market trends and pain points that need solving. We recommend a regular brainstorming process to ensure you have more ideas in the pipeline. Include a cross section of the organization, outside agencies and a process for creativity to ensure that you diverge to allow the group freedom for new ideas and then converge against the best ideas. Using the ideas, build concepts that you can use with consumers–a balance of qualitative and quantitative research. You want to identify  uniqueness, potential size of the opportunity, own-ability/strategic fit, and any consumer feedback that might help optimize or twist the idea. This must be a constant and regularly scheduled mining of ideas.
  • Create an innovation pipeline: We would suggest you build a 5 year pipeline of ideas. Short term ideas should go through concept refinement, in market testing and a stage-gate decision process with management. Stage-gate decisions include approval of the  execution plan and milestones from production to launch. To have a robust pipeline, you need longer term ideas that may still be in need of further concept refinement or potential technology discovery through your R&D team.  
  • Go to Market Implementation: Depending on the importance of key innovation, you should consider putting your best people on the team. With an important launch, the difference between good and great can make a huge difference. There are lots of heavy lifting on the back-end, including naming, logos, packaging, production, channel plan. From there, you need to build marketing support: advertising, presentations and in-store support. With each launch, you need to eventually hand over to a launch team, including marketing, sales, operations.

The best Innovation is creatively well planned, not randomly disorganized

Slide1Do 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. 

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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

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