Seven ways that brand leaders can be better in their jobs

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Self-improvement is continuous throughout your brand career and your life. Any moment can be a great time for reflection to think of where you are now, where you want to go next and how can you challenge yourself to get better. In the positive words of T.S. Eliot: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” So with that, let’s keep moving to be better.

Here are seven you can try to be better:

  1. Take a walk in your consumer’s shoes.
  2. Ask bigger questions and you will get bigger answers.
  3. Create more love for your brand, and you’ll drive more power and profits for your Brand.
  4. Focus makes your brand bigger, not smaller
  5. With all your marketing execution, ask yourself “DO I LOVE IT?”
  6. Find your space in the market to win
  7. Care more about the careers of your people

#1: Take a walk in your consumer's shoes.


See and experience your brand as consumers do. It’s not just about doing research and finding consumer insights. I know it sounds pedestrian, but google your brand, try to buy it, open it and use it. Bring the consumer into everything you do tightening the connection. Consumers do not care what you do until you care about what they want. In 2019, be the type of marketer who represents the consumer to your brand and then watch your work get better.

Most marketers think of the type of consumers they want to attract. To be better, why not change your thinking and go after those consumers who are already motivated by what your brand offers? So instead of asking, “Who do we want?” you should be saying, “Who wants us?”

I use seven fundamental questions to define and build a profile of your ideal consumer target:

  1. What is the description of the consumer target?
  2. What are the consumer’s main needs?
  3. Who is the consumer’s enemy who torments them every day?
  4. What are the insights we know about the consumer?
  5. What does the consumer think now?
  6. How does the consumer buy?
  7. What do we want consumers to see, think, do, feel or whisper to their friends?

#2: Ask bigger questions and you will get bigger answers


The best strategic minds see questions before they see solutions.


I want to introduce you to my ThinkBox strategic thinking model. I have borrowed this idea from sports. For instance, before a shot in golf, the ThinkBox forces you to look at your golf score versus your opponent, the type of shot that works best with your swing, the wind condition, or how well you are playing that day. Then, use your PlayBox to visualize the golf shot, think and feel your way through your swing, then trust your shot.

With a brand, the ThinkBox, before taking action, you should look at your brand’s core strength, the bond you have with your consumers, the brand’s competitive position, and the brand’s business situation. Once you have done the thinking, use the PlayBox to see the impact, think and feel your way, then trust your instincts.

To be better at strategy, I have set the Strategic ThinkBox up so that each of the four questions uses a forced-choice to make decisions, where you must focus on one answer for each question.

  1. What is the core strength that will help your brand win?
  2. How tightly connected is your consumer to your brand?
  3. What is your current competitive position?
  4. What is the current business situation your brand faces?

Start with your brand’s core strength. Decide which of four choices you will lead with: product, brand story, consumer experience or price. Your core strength will change your entire strategy, including the brand messages and the focus of your investment. To be better, use our process for how to choose your brand’s core strength and then show you how to write smart, strategic objective statements around your core strength.

Next, you have to look at your consumer strategy. Start by determining where your brand currently sits on the brand love curve, whether your brand is unknown, indifferent, like it, love it, or at the beloved stage. To be better, use our brand funnel data, the voice of the consumer and market dynamics to determine where your brand sits on the brand love curve. I will outline distinct game plans for each stage.

Regarding the competitive strategy, you must choose from one of four different types of competitive situations you find your brand operating within. The power players are the dominant leader in the category and take a competitive defensive stance. The challenger brands have gained enough power to battle head-to-head with the market leader. The disruptor brands have found a space so different they can pull consumers away from the significant category players. Craft brands aggressively go against the category with a niche target market and a niche consumer benefit. They are small and stay far away from the market leaders. Each competitive situation leads to different strategy choices.

A brand must look at the situational strategy, which starts with understanding your brand health, looking at both internal and external factors. Choose one of four potential situations: whether you keep the momentum going, face a business turnaround situation, realign everyone behind a strategy, or your brand is a start-up. With each situation, it leads to distinct strategies, and even leadership styles to deploy.

#3: Create more love for your brand, and you'll drive more power and profits for your Brand.

The tighter the bond a brand creates with their consumers, the more powerful the brand will become with all stakeholders. Think of brand love as stored energy a brand can unleash in the form of power into the marketplace. You can use that power with consumers, competitors, new entries, employees, influencers, media, suppliers and channel partners.

Power over the consumers

These beloved brands command power over the very consumers who love them, as consumers feel more and think less. These consumers pay price premiums, line up in the rain, follow the brand as soon as it enters new categories and relentlessly defend the brand to any attackers. They cannot live without the brand.

Power over the channels

Beloved brands have power over channel customers, who know their consumers would switch stores before they switch brands. Stores cannot stand up to the beloved brand; instead, they give the brand everything in negotiations. The beloved brand ends up with stronger store placement, better trade terms and better promotions from retail partners.

Power over the competition

The competitors, whether current competitors or new entries, cannot match the emotional bond the beloved brand has created with their brand fans. The beloved brand has the monopoly on emotions, making the consumer decisions less about the actual product and more about how the experience makes consumers feel. Unless a new brand has an overwhelming technological advantage, it will be impossible to break the emotional bond the consumer has established with the beloved brand.

Power over the media

The beloved brand also has a power over the media whether it is paid, earned, social or search media. With paid media, the beloved brand gets better placement, cheaper rates and they are one of the first calls for possible brand integrations. The beloved brand is considered newsworthy, so they earn more free media via mainstream media, expert reviews and bloggers.

Power over the company’s culture

Beloved brands even have power over employees, who want to be part of the brand. They are brand fans, who are proud to work on the brand. They embody the culture on day 1 and want to help the brand achieve success.

Brand love means brand profits

With all the love and power the beloved brand generates, it becomes easy to translate that stored power into sales growth, profit, and market valuation.

Here are the eight ways a brand can drive profits:

  1. Premium pricing
  2. Trading up to a higher price price
  3. Lower cost of goods
  4. Lower sales and marketing costs
  5. Stealing competitive users
  6. Getting loyal users to use more
  7. Entering new markets
  8. Finding new uses for the brand.

#4: Focus makes your brand bigger, not smaller


Focus your limited resources on a distinct opportunity you have identified based on a potential change in the market, including changes to consumers, competitive situations, technology or sales channels.

In today’s data-driven world, everyone has access to the equivalent information and in turn, can see the same opportunities. You must use speed to seize the opportunity before others can take action, and then that opportunity is gone. The best brand leaders never divide and conquer. They force themselves to focus and win. 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 doing a little of both, you are not strategic. Force yourself to make choices.

Every brand has limited resources, whether they’re financial, time, people, or partnerships. Marketers always face the temptation of an unlimited array of choices, whether in the possible target market, brand messages, strategies, or tactics. The smartest brand leaders limit their choices to match up to their limited resources, to focus on those that will deliver the highest return. 


Many marketers struggle to focus

  • Myth 1: The most prominent myth of marketing is to believe that your brand will get bigger if you have a broader target market. Reality: Too many marketers target anyone. I will always argue it is better to be loved by a few than tolerated by many. You have to create a tight bond with a core base of brand fans, and then use that fan support to expand your following. 
  • Myth 2: The second myth to becoming a more prominent brand is to believe a brand stands for everything. Some brands try to say everything possible with the hope the consumer hears anything. Reality: Hope is never a strategy. To be loved by consumers, a brand must stand for something with a backbone and conviction. Trying to be everything to anyone just ends up becoming nothing to everyone.
  • Myth 3: Your brand will be bigger if you try to be everywhere, whether in every sales channel or on every possible media option. Reality: If you went to Las Vegas and put a chip on every square, you would be bankrupt before midnight. The worst marketers lack focus because they fear missing out on someone or something. By trying to be everywhere, the brand will drain itself and eventually end up being nowhere.

Every brand has limited resources, whether they’re financial, time, people, or partnerships. Marketers always face the temptation of an unlimited array of choices, whether in the possible target market, brand messages, strategies, or tactics. The smartest brand leaders limit their choices to match up to their limited resources, to focus on those that will deliver the highest return. 


When you focus, five amazing things happen to your brand:

  1. Stronger return on investment (ROI): When you focus your dollars on the distinct breakthrough point or against a program that you know will work, you will see the most positive and efficient response in the marketplace. 
  2. Better return on effort (ROE): You must make the most efficient use of your limited people resources. Find the Big Easy! Focus on the ideas with the most significant impact that is the easiest to execute. Avoid those ideas that are small and difficult to implement. While you may not always have the data to calculate your ROI, you should have the instincts to figure out your return on effort (ROE). 
  3. Stronger reputation: When you limit your audience and brand message, you will have a better chance to own that reputation among that core target audience. 
  4. More competitive: When you focus your message to a specific target audience, your brand will start to create a space in the market you can defend against others from entering that space.
  5. More investment behind the brand: When you focus and deliver business results, your management team will ask you to do that again. They will give you more money and more people resources. Even with increased resources, you must take the same focused approach. 

#5: With all your marketing execution, ask yourself “DO I LOVE IT?”


We can never settle for O.K. Each time we reject O.K., the work gets better. It makes our expectations higher. When you have to love your work, you will fight for it, with your agency, your boss or anyone in the way.

No longer can we think about consumers in a strictly functional or logical way. The best brands of today, like Tesla, Apple, Starbucks, Nike, Dove or Airbnb have found a way to capture the imagination of their consumers and take them on a journey of delightful experiences that fosters a deeper emotional and lasting relationship.

Brands must treat their most cherished consumers with the respect that establishes trust, enabling consumers to open up to a point where they replace thinking with feeling. The logic of demand evolves into an emotional state of desire, needs become cravings and repeat purchases progress into rituals and turn into a favorite moment in the day. Consumers transform into the most outspoken and loyal brand fans and ambassadors.

#6: Find your space in the market to win

To be better at strategy, you need to find the competitive space in which your brand can win, I introduce a Venn diagram of competitive situations.

You will see three circles. The first circle comprises everything your consumer wants or needs. The second circle includes everything your brand does best, including consumer benefits, product features or proven claims. And, finally, the third circle lists what your competitor does best.

Your brand’s winning zone (in green), is the space that matches up “What consumers want” with “What your brand does best.” This space provides you a distinct positioning you can own and defend from attack. Your brand must be able to satisfy the consumer needs better than any other competitor can.

Your brand will not survive by trying to compete in the losing zone (in red), which is the space that matches the consumer needs with “What your competitor does best.” When you play in this space, your competitor will beat you every time.

As markets mature, competitors copy each other. It has become harder to be better with a definitive product win. Many brands have to play in the risky zone (in grey), which is the space where you and your competitor both meet the consumer’s needs in a relative tie. 

There are four ways you can win the risky zone:

  • Use your brand’s power in the market to squeeze out smaller, weaker brands.
  • Be the first to capture that space to earn a reputation you can defend
  • Win with innovation and creativity to make your brand seem unique
  • Build a deeper emotional connection to make your brand seem different

Sadly, I always have to mention the dumb zone (in blue) where two competitors “battle it out” in the space consumers do not care.  One competitor says, “We are faster,” and the other brand says, “We are just as fast.” No one bothered to ask the consumer if they care about speed. Both brands are dumb.

#7: Care more about the careers of your people

To be better at the marketing leadership position, the best way to connect with your team is to care about their careers. If you are authentic with how you approach their development, they’ll listen to your advice, follow your lead and give more effort than ever. And when they feel they are getting the training and development needed to be successful, they’ll likely stay longer with your company. If you help them add skills and motivation, their on-the-job performance will be even better. When the work gets better, the brand’s results will be better.

For you the equation is simple: Smarter people lead to better work, which leads to stronger growth for your brand.

The best brand leaders are always looking for ways to be better

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Our playbooks will show you new ways for how to think, define, plan, execute and analyze your brand

  1. You will find new strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  2. To define the brand, I 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 show a 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. 
  3. 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 marketing communications plan, innovation process, and sales plan. 
  4. To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution with chapters on how to write a creative brief, how to make decisions on creative advertising and how to lead the media choices. 
  5. When it comes time for analyzing the performance of your brand, I provide all the analytical tools you need to lead a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand.  

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your brand and be successful in your marketing career.

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