McDonald’s is about to make the biggest brand strategy blunder of all time: fight two battles at once.

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

As of 2017, it is hard to really define what McDonald’s stands for anymore. Hamburgers or coffee? Or both? Whenever you try to do both options, you just picked the worst possible strategy.

The one thing I can safely say, is they are no longer “Fast”. On a cold Canadian winter, I called home and asked my son if he wanted a coffee on my way home. He said “sure”. So I got in the McDonald’s drive through line, behind only about 4 other cars. And after 20 minutes, I finally had my coffee. I was in complete shock. Does anyone do fast anymore? You would think in this day of hyper need states, someone would do fast.

Is all-day breakfast really a strategy?

The only success McDonald’s has had in the past 18 months has their all day breakfast, basically taking their normal breakfast foods and making it available 24/7. I guess for the next move they could make their fries available 24/7. And now McDonald’s has added bacon to their Big Mac Hamburgers and talking about it on TV like it is an “Oh my god, why didn’t I think of that” type of innovation.

Strategy choices: Hamburgers or Coffee?

A few days later, I read that McDonald’s was going to invest billions in 2017 to revamp the insides of their McCafe’s around the world. OK, so you want to take on Starbucks. Sure you have a great coffee, but plastic seats, fake fireplaces, annoying toddlers screaming on the floor, and the teenagers lurking around certainly does not make up for the great coffee. That will sure be expensive to replicate the appeal of Starbucks.

By the way, can anyone answer my question: how does Starbucks manage to keep toddlers out of their restaurants?

Then a week later, I read that McDonald’s was going to invest billions in 2017 to revamp their entire kitchens to be able to serve high quality and fresh meat in their hamburgers. Wow. I am big fan of Five Guys, In-N-Out burger, Shake Shack and Big Smoke Hamburgers. But, they are never fast. They each say they won’t start cooking your hamburgers until you order it. At Five Guys, you can see them even pull the hamburgers out and placed on the grill.

McDonald’s is about to commit the worst mistake a brand can do. They are about to fight a war on two fronts.

In the history of warfare, this is the most common mistake of every great general who has eventually gone down in flames. From the third century BC in the First Macedonian War to Napoleon to World War II, the war of two fronts never works.

By trying to be everything to anyone McDonald’s has ended up nothing to everyone. Despite all their efforts the past 5 years, McDonald’s is not perceived as the ‘best’ in coffee. Starbucks is. They don’t have the best burger. Five Guys does. They don’t have the best chicken, best shakes or best sandwiches. McDonald’s does not have the best anything. They aren’t even that fast, that cheap or have that great of service anymore. Getting a McDonald’s employee to say thank you is nearly impossible.

Strategy Myths

The biggest myth of marketing is to believe that a bigger target market is the path to being a bigger brand. Too many Marketers are willing to target anyone. The second myth is believing that if you stand for everything, it will make your brand stronger. There are brands that say they are faster, longer-lasting, better-tasting, stronger, cheaper and have a better experience. They mistakenly think that whatever the competitor does best, they will try to do it better. They are willing to say everything, hoping the consumer hears something.

Hope is never a strategy. The third myth is trying to be everywhere, whether that means being in every channel of distribution or being on every possible media option. The worst Marketers lack focus because of their fear of missing out on someone or something. By trying to be everything to anyone, the brand will end up nothing to everyone. By trying to be everywhere, the brand will eventually end up being no where. Strategy should never be random.

Every brand faces limited resources

Every brand is constrained by limited resources, whether financial, time, people or partnership resources. Yet Marketers always face the temptation of an unlimited array of choices, whether those choices are in the possible target market, brand messages, strategies or tactics. The smartest Brand Leaders are able to limit their choices to match up to their limited resources. They focus on those choices that will deliver the greatest return. I always joke that strategic thinkers share one similar trait with lazy people. Both spend a lot of effort to figure out how to get the most back, by doing the least possible.

The best Brand Leaders never divide and conquer out of fear. Force yourself to focus and conquer with the confidence of strategic thinking. The smartest Brand Leaders use the word “or” more often than they use the word “and”. If you come to a decision point, and you try to rationalize in your own brain that it is okay to do a little of both, then you are not strategic. You are not even a decision-maker.

Trying to both at the same time means you will lose at both. I can no longer tell you what McDonald’s stands for. Can you?

So if you were McDonald’s, would you choose to win the burger war or the coffee war? I’d pick burgers.

 

McDonald's Story Starbucks turnaround

 

To read about how to create a beloved brand, here is our workshop we run:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

Beloved Brands is a brand strategy and marketing training firm that is focused on the future growth of your brand and your people.

It is our fundamental belief that the more loved your brand is by your most cherished consumers, the more powerful and profitable your brand will be. We also believe that better marketing people will lead to smarter strategy choices and tightly focused marketing execution that will higher growth for your brands.

With our workshops, we use our unique tools force you to think differently and help unleash new strategy solutions to build around. I believe the best solutions lay deep inside you already, but struggle to come out. In every discussion, I bring a challenging yet understanding voice to bring out the best in you and help you craft an amazing strategy.

We will help you find a unique and own-able Big Idea that will help you stand out from the clutter of today’s marketplace. The Big Idea must serve to motivate consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal connection with your brand. Equally, the Big Idea must work inside your organization, to inspire all employees who work behind the scenes to deliver happy experiences for consumers.

We will help build a brand plan everyone can follow. It starts with an inspiring vision to push your team. We then force strategy choices on where to allocate your limited resources. With our advice on brand execution, we can steer the brand towards brand love and brand growth.

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

At Beloved Brands, we deliver brand training programs that make brand leaders smarter so they are able to drive added growth on your brands. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

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

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

Graham Robertson Beloved Brands

The impact that smart, creative advertising has on your brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

People always ask me, “so what is it that makes a brand leader good at creative advertising. I used to think they must be more creative. Or they are more in touch with creative people. Or better yet, they are a visionary. I never really thought these answers satisfied me. Advertising is so much more than that. In fact there are many things around advertising that have nothing to do with the creative. There needs to be a great brand plan that inspires great strategy, the creative brief should be tight, yet rich with insight. Brand leaders have to manage the process and stay on strategy and they should have an ability to select the right media. They should take risks. They have to be able to handle the stress of ambiguity against deadlines, and the pressure to make the numbers in the face of art. Advertising is half art, half science. They have to be able to give some freedom of execution, yet maintain a tight control on the strategy.

The thinking behind smart and creative advertising

The best advertising must balance being creatively different and strategically smart. 

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

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

Be a better client

Brand Leaders must be good at giving good feedback, maybe even a bit fussy about details. Be nice though.  They have to love the work and bring that emotion to the table. What about motivating the team?  Not just motivating the creatives, but the planners, the account people, the editors and even the directors. Someone who is great at Advertising has to make decisions. They have to be able to walk in the shoes of the consumer, yet still, live at the desk of the brand. The best brand leaders must have the ability to gain alignment with their own team and yet gain approval from the senior management of the company. They have to be able to sell the work.  At all stages. The list goes on and on. There are just so many things that are required to get good advertising. Being creative is a great start. But it is more.

The best brand leaders must consistently get good creative advertising into the market, and they can keep bad creative advertising out of the market.

It’s such a simple yet complicated answer. Almost as simple and complicated as David Ogilvy’s line “Clients get the work they deserve”. I always ask Brand Leaders, “if you knew that how you showed up actually impacts the advertising, do you think you might show up differently?” I hope the answer is yes. But I’m not sure they do. Those great at advertising get it.

Sadly, there is an equally long list of things that make Brand Leaders bad at advertising. These days, there is so much learning on the job that people end up as the decision-maker in the room, sitting there trying to lead the advertising when they haven’t even properly trained on how to do it. Malcolm Gladwell says you’re an expert when you’ve had 10,000 hours. And yet, there are Brand Leaders are thrust into leading an Ad Campaign with 20, 30 or maybe 100 hours. And no training. Even those who are supposed to teach you haven’t been trained.  So you are both learning. How can you consistently get good advertising on the air, managing such a complicated process when you’re still learning. On the job.

What great creative advertising must do for your brand

Creative advertising that is different enough to drive engagement. 

To gain attention among the 5,000 ads consumers see each day, you have to make what you do interesting enough to get noticed. 

1. Let the visuals do the talking. 

Need a visual to capture attention, link to your brand and communicate your message. ‘See-say’ advertising helps consumers brain to engage, follow along and remember.

2. Set your brand apart from the competition. 

The more different the execution and positioning message, the more different it will make the brand seem.

3. Connect using consumer Insight. 

Insights enable consumers to see themselves in the situation and once you do that, the consumers will see that the brand must be for them. Focus on mattering the most to those consumers who care the most.

4. Keep the idea and communication focused and very simple. 

Focused target, focused message, focused strategy and a focused media. If you try to shout too many messages, consumer just ends up hearing a confusing mess 

5. Sell the benefit, not the problem or your features. 

Focus more on the solution than the problem. And it is not what you do, but what consumers get, and how it makes them feel. 

6. Tell the story behind the brand. 

Talk about your brand’s purpose and your story about why you started this brand, what do you hope the brand really does to help people.

7. Use creative advertising to build up your brand idea. 

Brand Ideas drive consistency, aligning your thinking over time, across mediums (paid, earned, social, store) and across the entire brand line up.

 

The ABC'S of creative advertising

Another way to rephrase this list is through the ABC’S: Attention Branding Communication and Stickiness.  

  • Attention: You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising. Consumers see 6000 ads per day, and will likely only engage in a few. If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
  • Brand Link: Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best. Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumer’s view of the brand. It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits the climax of the ad.
  • Communication: Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
  • Stickiness: Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time. In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own. Brands have to exist in the minds of the consumer.

Show up the right way

If how you show up to the agency will produce better creative advertising work  Then show up right. 

Agencies should be treated like trusted partners, not suppliers. Engage them early asking for advice, not just telling them what to do and when. If you tell an agency what to do, there will only be one answer “YES”. But if you ask them what to do, there are three answers: yes, no or maybe. Seek their advice beyond advertising. Build a relationship directly with the creative teams. Be more than “just another client”.

Getting great creative advertising is a balance between freedom and control. Most Marketers allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative. It should be the reverse, you should control the strategy and give freedom to creative. Don’t go into a creative meeting with a pre-conceived notion as to what the ad should look like. Creative people are “in the box” problem solvers. What they don’t want a) blank canvas b) unclear problem and c) your solutions to the problem. Let them be in the box and find the solution for you. That’s what motivates them the most.

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