Align your media choices with how consumers engage the internet

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Too many marketers think about where the media is, but they should be thinking about where their consumers are.

media choicesEven when your consumers are online, you should align your brand with what are they doing and the mood they are in when they are doing it. If you just go for pure efficiency and reach, you are completely missing the real opportunity of targeting your consumers online. Not only do you have to find your consumers, but you also have to find them in the right mood, so they are willing to engage with your brand.

The reality is today’s consumers live on their phones, tablets, and laptops. While there are many ways to reach consumers, your agency likely recommends the most efficient balance of reach and frequency. Look at potential sites that fit your brand, both from a functional and emotional stance.

Here are the 8 reasons consumers engage online:

  1. Be smarter
  2. Stay aware of what’s going on
  3. Escape the stress at some point in the day
  4. Express themselves
  5. Connect with others
  6. Go places, either local or around the world
  7. Buy things they desire
  8. Do things and control the variables.

media choiceAs consumers move around the internet, their emotional mood state changes. I have matched up the 8 functional ways of how consumers use the internet, with their emotional mood states.


Match up your brand emotional positioning with the consumer’s emotional mood when they are online.

If your brand is trying to own the staying in control zone, do not use sites where consumers are in the mood to escape or express themselves such as Tumbler or Instagram.

Conversely, a brand trying to own the get noticed space should not be on the Economist or The Weather Network. There are enough sites that allow you to line your brand up perfectly.

When consumers want to be smarter, they ‘google it’ or look at subject matter expert sites. And, when consumers want to stay aware, they reach for their favorite online news site or scan social media news feeds.

When consumers are in the mood to feel free, they try to escape, whether a 5-minute break at work or the subway going home after a long day, they look to escape with Youtube or Bleacher Report.

The line is getting blurry when consumers want to express themselves. While they might start with Twitter, they duplicate the post on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest as they are in the mood to get noticed.

One of the most apparent reasons for the internet is to connect with others, feeding their mood to be liked. They use email, texting or Facebook.

Consumers reach for their phone when they want to do things, checking the weather, looking up restaurant reviews or buying tickets to an event. While these consumers are looking to have fun, they use tools to stay in control, so nothing gets in the way of having fun.

When consumers want to buy things to fulfill a craving or desire to reward themselves, they want it now and use transactional sites such as Amazon or eBay. Moreover, they go straight to a favorite retailer’s e-commerce site.

When consumers want to go somewhere, they use Waze for driving directions or Uber to hail a ride. If they’re going to go on a vacation, they use Expedia to book a flight, explore things to do using TripAdvisor or look up cool places to stay using Airbnb. These consumers are in the mood to explore but also find comfort.


Where are consumers when they are in the mood that matches up with your brand’s desired emotional space?

Here are five media questions for the future

Here are some challenging thoughts for us going forward.

1. Will people watch even more TV in the future?

Sounds crazy, but with more tablets and instant internet access, the future will see us watching even more TV programming. Consumers love anything on video. But, it will not be traditional network TV. We are already seeing a considerable consumer shift to streaming TV, whether Netflix, specialty channels, on-demand viewing, and Youtube videos. Advertising has yet to figure out how it will fit into these new TV options.

2. How can brands capture young adults?

With two college-aged kids, I can tell you they never watch network television, never read newspapers and never listen to the radio. Yet, they are always connected, using Netflix, texting, SnapChat, and Instagram. One of the most interesting insights about this group is, ‘They never go online, mainly because they never go off-line.’ They put their lives online and expect instant access to everything. They are always multi-tasking, prefer apps over software, newsfeed over news stories. While high profile beloved brands can easily reach them, low involvement or indifferent brands will have a hard time reaching them.

3. Can newspapers or magazines even survive?

Newspapers and magazines appear lost. For too long, they linked their brand to the actual format and moved online too slowly. For many, news now is now instant, ubiquitous and more casual/social. Instead of seeking out news, consumers now filter news. Journalists are struggling to capture readers, and print companies are struggling to capture consumers to their online versions, as fake news, Twitter feeds, and social media are dominating traditional print. Can these print companies figure out new revenue and profit models with online versions?

4. Are there too many social media options?

Early innovation in social media led to a divergence of options. Yet, they become more similar than different. Potential power plays could see mergers where the strongest brands squeeze out other players—the first being Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn. Other than high profile brands, many Brand Leaders struggle to come up with relevant content that can engage their targets. Imagine who might be next.

5. Can brand leaders figure out how to win in the new world?

Brand Leaders are more confused than they ever have been. The exploding of media options has led to an explosion of agencies, each battling each other for a share of the spend, rather than directing the Marketer with clear advice. The biggest issue I see is that Marketers have become too involved, they are now do-ers taking on parts of subject matter experts rather than staying in the generalist decision maker role. For Brand Leaders, the changes are speeding up. Just as they are used to digital, there is a dramatic shift to social, and then another dramatic you shift to mobile. The problem is that unless you are a consumer of the media options, you will struggle with it.  You will learn more about these media choices by trying them out than you will reading a presentation in a boardroom.

Here is a workshop we run on Marketing Execution that looks at both the creative and media sides of  reaching consumers.

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:

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link:

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order:

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 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.


Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.


Microsoft just bought LinkedIn. This is a huge move into the world of social media.

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

Microsoft has announced a $26 Billion acquisition of Linked In. This is Microsoft’s first entry into the social media world. (or second if you count MSN). My first reaction was “WOW. Just wow.”  I was expecting something, but didn’t see it coming now, and with Microsoft. But good for them. And this is the first move, not the last move.

linked in.002I normally hate mergers and acquisitions, but this one is pretty interesting. Microsoft is making an obvious play at the business world. While the Nokia experiment failed, I wouldn’t be surprised if they keep pushing into the portable device space. The surface has done fairly well (I’m 100% Apple guy, but I see them around). And now  Microsoft will now be able to package Surface + Office + LinkedIn + Slideshare + Skype.

In an email to staff, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella touted the pairing as a way to improve both companies by integrating LinkedIn’s content and network with Microsoft’s cloud computing and productivity tools. “This combination will make it possible for new experiences such as a LinkedIn newsfeed that serves up articles based on the project you are working on and Office suggesting an expert to connect with via LinkedIn to help with a task you’re trying to complete. As these experiences get more intelligent and delightful, the LinkedIn and Office 365 engagement will grow,”Nadella wrote.

Honestly, I have no idea where the current world of social media settles in, and who owns what. But the world of convergence will happen over the next 5-10 years. From a social media point of view, most of these sites are just about expresses ourselves, just in slightly different ways. If I look at my news feeds on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram, they are starting to look similar, some days almost too similar. Not all of them will survive or need to survive. There are already apps that allow one to post on each site. Why not take it a step further and just have one site, with 3 or 4 window. Facebook could easily have a personal window, business window, entertainment window or politics window. I don’t see a need for Twitter, do you?

I could easily see Apple and Facebook getting together.

linked in.001

By the way, shares of LinkedIn surged 48% after the announcement, while Microsoft’s stock was down 4%. Trading in Microsoft had been halted briefly for news pending before the announcement of the all-cash deal. So maybe the market’s first reaction isn’t so strong. I think this is a great fit for Microsoft and the market will settle in.

Your move next Apple.


At Beloved Brands, we lead workshops to help teams build their Strategic Thinking, helping Brand Leaders to think differently in terms of competitive strategy, consumer strategy, getting behind your core strengths and being aware of the situational strategy. Click on the Powerpoint file below to view:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management.

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. 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 contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.

GR bio Jun 2016.001



The best media decisions should focus on where your consumer is, not where the media is

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

At Beloved Brands, we believe that Marketers must think of Media as an investment that connects with consumers at the point they are most willing to engage in your brand story, getting them to think, feel or act differently enough to generate higher sales, share and profits beyond the media investment. There is no free media in this world, you are either investing with dollars or investing with effort. Both cost money. With all the changes to media in the last 10-15 years, we must challenge ourselves to think differently.

I went to a big huge “Digital Media Conference” in Chicago last year, hoping to challenge myself. And by the 15th presentation, there was this odd feeling I couldn’t figure it out. And then it hit me. I had not once heard the word “consumer” in any of the presentations. Everything was about MEDIA. It was gadget after gadget. How to move up with key words, the 9 types of digital display shaped ads and cool little videos that went viral. Over and over again.

The best media decisions should focus on where your consumer is, not where the media is.

Everything in Marketing has to start and end with the consumer in mind. You have to be more consumer obsessed than you are media obsessed. Yes, media is fun, with cool new stuff happening everyday. But if you are running a brand, consumers are your only source of revenue that you will ever have. Lead with the consumer and you will make better media choices. I one saw a gravel pit on a country road with a sign out front that said “Like us on Facebook”. That’s crazy. I heard about the President of chemical companies that told their brand team to get on Instagram, because their daughter was on it. That’s crazy too. And I know an industrial company who put “Facebook Likes” as one of the major goals for each brand. More craziness. These are media led decision, nowhere near consumer led decisions. As the media world has changed, brand marketers are really struggling with how to approach media decisions. Always keep in mind that the only reason you should ever choose a certain media is if you believe that it matches to where your consumer will be receptive to your brand message, and influence them to change their behavior in a way that favors your brand.

Media 2016 .012


We will show you three different models to challenge your brain to think about your media with a consumer first mentality. We start with how consumers use media, then show how the degree of consumer connectivity with your brand  impacts your media strategy and then finally, we look at fitting your brand message into the part of the life of your consumer where they will be most receptive to your message.

1. The 8 ways consumers use Media

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Taking a step into the shoes of consumers, we have mapped out 8 ways that consumer engage with media.

  • When consumers want to be smarter, the obvious option is Google for searching whatever comes to your mind. But consumers can also reach for Wikipedia for basic information on complex subjects. Blogs are also an amazing tool for getting smarter (hopefully why you are reading here). In terms of traditional media, consumers still use subject-matter expert type magazines, informative TV stations (Home and Garden) or news/documentary programming.
  • Consumers use media to stay aware of what’s going on. Consumers might look to TV or Newspapers for news, sports or entertainment networks. A lot of on-line news sites (Huffington Post or are providing regular interval stories that get delivered through social media feeds. For business, LinkedIn is becoming the best site to stay aware of though leadership in your industry, new job openings or what is happening job-wise to your peers/friends.
  • For decades consumers have used media to escape from reality, turning on the TV after a hard day at work. The best dramas in the modern world are by non-traditional stations such as AMC, TNT or most recently Netflix. The network TV is becoming like “fast food” entertainment. Many younger consumers are using YouTube for shorter term videos. And magazines continue to provide a nice escape for consumers.
  • The social media options over the last 5-10 years have provided a real chance for us to express ourselves.  We have become obsessed with telling the world what is on our minds through Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. Selfies and kid pics. Political opinions. Sports commentary. Facebook has begun to serve this purpose shifting from what are we doing to what are we thinking.
  • Social media allows consumers to stay connected with our friends, with Facebook being the dominant vehicle. SnapChat is doing a great job targeting teenagers and WhatsApp has become popular all over the world (outside North America).
  • Now, e-commerce has become commonplace. So when we want to do things, buy things or go places, we are more likely to reach for our laptops or mobile. than go out to browse the shopping malls. We have some amazing options at our fingertips including Amazon, TicketMaster, Trip  Advisor and Airbnb.

Knowing the 8 ways for how consumers use media should help to match up your brand to the right media choice. As we started to play with these 8 ways that consumers use media, it struck us how closely it links with our Emotional Cheat Sheet we created that maps out the 8 emotional consumer moods that consumers go through each day. These 8 zones include optimism, freedom, being noticed, being liked, comfort, be myself, be in control and knowledge. For more information on this cheat sheet, contact Hotspex at  These emotional zones can impact your brand’s emotional benefit in a positioning statement as well as the tone of the delivery of your message.

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Below, we show see how closely the consumer emotional need states match up to the consumer media needs. Use this to ensure the media choice you use matches up to the emotional tone of the message you deliver.

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2. The depth of consumer connection matters

We created the Brand Love Curve to define the strength of the bond that brands have generated with their consumers. At the beginning of the Brand Love Curve, the brands act like a commodity with no connection and we refer to those brands as “Indifferent”. Brands at the Indifferent stage has to focus on the consumer’s head, trying to get consumers to think differently about their brand. Brands move to the “Like It” stage as they separate themselves in the mind of consumers, a rational separation with limited emotional connection.Brands at the Like It stage need to drive action to get consumers to buy and create a bigger following. As the bond becomes tighter, consumers may develop an emotional connection, we refer to those brands as “Love It”. Brands at the Love It stage has to focus on the consumer’s heart, to get current loyal users to connect on a deeper level. And finally, the best brands in the world have the tightest bond with consumers, almost a cult-like following equal to a sports team. We refer to these as the “Beloved” stage. Brands at the Beloved stage have to get those who love the brand to feel part and become outspoken advocates that will influence their network.

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We then find the Media Strategy options by matching the brand strategies we created with the brand love curve up to a consumer buying system that tracks how consumers shop, moving from awareness to purchase to experience and onto being loyal. Below, we can see that brands at the Indifferent stage should focus on the early parts of the consumer buying system with your investment into awareness, consideration and search to influence consumers to move to purchase. For those brands at the Like It stage,  we recommend you focus on the purchase moment in order to close deals and develop a bigger following. Brands at the Love It stage should put their investment into turning satisfied consumers into repeating and then becoming loyal brand fans. At the Beloved stage, your effort should be taking those consumers who love you and mobilizing them to become and outspoken army that generates awareness on their own.

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3. Marketing to the “many moments of me” during the day.

This is a simple but an essential tool that helps match up your media choice to the moment in your consumer’s day where/when they are most likely to engage. Yes, it’s very tactical, but with all the media possibilities, time of day will help ensure you have the right message. The consumer’s mindset changes during the course of the day, based on where they are or what they are doing. If you are selling a house, people might google search during their lunch hours or go visit on the weekends.

The consumer’s mindset also changes during the course of the week, as they are in a different mood on a Monday vs. Thursday, or vs. Saturday. If you are selling healthcare products, try to own Sunday night when consumers are in a thinking mood, whereas you can avoid Thursday and Friday when  they are just planning out the entertainment for their weekend.

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Always think like your consumer and you will make better media choices


To read more about Media Planning for brand leaders, read the following presentation:


Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. 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 contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

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10 annoying marketing tactics that give us a bad reputation

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

marketing tacticsI’m a marketer at heart. In terms of career, it’s all I know and all I am. I claim to love everything about marketing. Well, nearly everything. Here are 10 marketing tactics I despise and even more importantly I believe give us marketers a bad reputation. As Mike Ditka would say “STOP IT”.

  1. The price of popcorn at the movie theatre. At the grocery store, a single bag of Orville’s popcorn goes for 29 cents a bag. Yet at the movie theatre, it costs $5.99. I get that the movie is using popcorn to cover the overhead.  But it really is blatantly treating your consumer like a hostage. “Combos” (popcorn plus pop or candy) are even worse. At my theatre, one night while I was 9th in line, I added them up and there are zero savings. So I asked the kid at the front. And the answer the poor kid had to give was “the combos are more convenience than savings”. Wow. These marketing tactics just gives us a bad reputation.
  2. Freight and PDI on a New Car. If you’ve ever bought a car, you have to pay for something called freight and PDI. It’s really an admin fee for shipping and preparing the car. What’s frustrating is the negotiation process in buying a car. This is just one more tool at the disposal of the salespeople. I know Saturn tried the “no price negotiation” strategy and it backfired. Negotiations with so many moving parts can be a brutal experience. And many times, you start off day 1 with such a negative experience that you’re mad at the brand. Why would you want that?
  3. That’s not all if you call now…’ Yes, telemarketing is a necessary evil of the marketing game. I’m not a fan. The worst line ever invented is “that’s not all”. That just means we’ve taken this low-cost item we’re trying to sell you and give you a second one for free.  But the rip-off is the “you just pay the shipping and handling” line. You’re likely paying an extra $8=10 in shipping and handling, where the company makes a huge profit on that amount. It’s never double the price to ship two items in the same parcel. And handling? I wish these guys would stop preying on the defense-less consumer. These marketing tactics make us look bad.
  4. 100% Money-Back Warranty…’except for’: A few years ago, I decided to buy a Toshiba Ultrabook, as it was slightly cheaper than the Mac version. While the Toshiba was a bit flimsy, I decided to buy the 3-year extra service plan from Best Buy. I was told, “don’t worry, this warranty covers everything, and while it’s being repaired, we’ll even give you a loaner version”. I figured OK, I”m covered. Six months in, the flimsy screen caught up to me and all of a sudden I couldn’t see anything. Confidently, I took it back to Best Buy. They gave me a loaner and a week later said “we can fix it, but the cost to you will be $400” I said, “but I have the full warranty”. And they said “yes, but the warranty does not cover software, hardware or battery”. HUH? What else is there? There is nothing else but software, hardware or battery to a computer. Anyway, I bought a new Mac. No wonder Apple does so well in an industry like this.
  5. Paying $3 for headphones on the Airplane. I know pretty much every airline is nearly bankrupt. And I’d never invest a penny into an airline. But the shift to charging the consumer for everything seems like the wrong way to go. There have to be more creative ways than charging $3 for headphones. I was recently on a flight that cost me $1700, which makes that headphone fee about 0.18% of the overall price. Is it really making a dent in the balance sheet of your airline?  Or is giving the consumer a small token a bad thing?
  6. Email Lists you didn’t know you signed up for. I manage my email as best I can. For about 2 months now, I’m getting weekly Hilton Honors email blasts. I finally un-subscribed. Some of the un-subscribes are easy.  But others are painful with 3 or 4 steps to confirm I really want to un-subscribe and I’m not “mistaken”. Email marketing is just a new form of junk mail. I guess it works for 3% of customers so to get the money from those guys, let’s bug the 97% of customers who don’t want emails cluttering up their inbox. Let’s make it so hard to tick off that “no email thank you” box that we can annoy our most loyal consumers.
  7. Paying more for a large hot tea versus a small: There are 3 component costs in hot tea. The cup, the bag, and the water. The only thing that changes with a larger size is more water. Any chance to rip-off the consumer.
  8. 3-year Cell Phone Contracts: When the technology changes every six months and you’re teenager drops (or throws) their phone at least once a week, having that long contract feels like a prison sentence. I get the whole it’s the only way we can cover the cost. But it puts all these phone companies into a position where they get the sale but lose the customer’s loyalty. It’s not a way to build a long-term love affair but rather a growing hatred for one another.
  9. Gas Price Games.  I want one simple rule for gas prices. You have to set them on the first day of the month and leave that price the entire month. Have you ever noticed that the price of gas goes up immediately at the start of a crisis–in anticipation of prices going up.  So a hurricane hits, prices jump up that day just in case the oil industry is affected. Not because it’s been affected. Just in case. Yet the prices don’t come down in anticipation of the world crisis ending,
  10. Call center cold calls at home. Even worse than junk email cluttering up my inbox are the phone calls coming from overseas. I’ve signed up for the “Do Not Call”, but I guess the loophole is to now call from overseas. You’re in the middle of cooking dinner and the phone rings. And there is some 7-second delay before someone says “Hi Mr. Robertson”.

These 10 marketing tactics are very common to most consumers causing great frustration but also lack of respect for the marketing profession. And yes, it is a profession. What are the things about marketing that annoy you and damage our reputation?

How do we “Stop It” on these marketing tactics?


Read more on how to create a beloved brand:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. 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 contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

Barbie is inspiring girls to believe that “you can be anything”

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Barbie has faced major declines. Barbie has been heavily criticized over the last few decades for projecting an unrealistic image for girls. Launched in 1959, Barbie was the blonde all-American dream, but a complete fiction that many believe to be doing more damage to the self-confidence of girls. The modern Moms didn’t want their daughters to play with Barbie anymore. All of a sudden, Barbie sales declined 20% from 2012 to 2014. The brand needed to make a dramatic change.



Barbie took a dramatic step forward–even if just to catch up to where they should be–by launching new possibilities with realistic options for body type (curvy, tall and petite) and various ethnicities (seven skin tones) They needed to create a Barbie that Moms would think acceptable for their girls to play with. These moms wanted a good symbol for their daughters, not something unrealistic and unattainable. The new Barbie is a good first step.

Next, the supporting Advertising for Barbie has gone viral with over 20 Million views. The ad starts by showing a young girls in situation as a College Professor, a Museum curator, a Veterinarian or a Soccer coach. The supporting copy: “When a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she can become.” with a bold tag-line: YOU CAN BE ANYTHING. This is a great ad with a new message that should fit with the modern moms.



Barbie sales are up 8% this past holiday period, a good start to the turnaround. 


Five lessons for brand turnarounds

  1. Ensure the right people in place: Before even creating the plan, you need to get the right leadership talent in place. Talent, motivation, alignment. Mattel brought in new CEO last spring who reshuffled a lot of the executives in an effort to turn the business around.
  2. Look to close leaks on the brand: Use brand funnel to assess, using leaky bucket tool to close leaks. Find out where the specific problems are coming from. Barbie has done a nice job in listening to their consumers, the moms who were rejecting the brand due to stereotypes.
  3. Cut the fat, re-invest: go through every investment decision, invest only in programs that give you an early break through win. Even faced with Sales declines, Mattel made a smart move to cut costs by 10% to drive profits back into the business. It is hard to do a turnaround while the profit keeps falling.
  4. 3-stage plan: In stage 1, find early/obvious win, halts slide, helps motivation. In stage 2, invest behind new positioning/new plan, focused decisions, take risks. In stage 3, make adjustments to plan, build innovation behind new ideas that fit plan. Barbie started talking about the plan a year ago, listening to consumers and preparing for the big launch. So far, they’ve stemmed the decline, but now they need to build a plan for the next 3-5 years that grows this business.
  5. Motivating a demotivated team: Losing can be contagious to a culture/team. Recognize wins to fuel performance driven culture. People on the team needed new leadership and needed room to take chances with this iconic brand.

This type of thinking can be found in our Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks

Learn to think, define, plan, execute and analyze your brand

  • 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 marketing 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 and B2B Brands on Amazon, Rakuten Kobo or Apple Books

How to run a Brainstorm session

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Brainstorming should be a regular part of running your Brand.

To stay in a healthy creative space, I would suggest that each brand team should be having some type of brainstorm (big or small) once a month. albert-einstein-creativity-quoteYou need a constant influx of ideas–promotions, advertising, social media, naming, new products, events, PR, saving money and of course as part of your brand planning, They can be a quick 30 minutes as part of a weekly meeting just to get some quick ideas or a whole afternoon to solve a problem that’s been nagging at the group. Or a team building offsite meeting that goes all day.


There are advantages to having regular brainstorms:

  1. Team will stay fresh and open. Brand jobs can eat you up, forecasting, deadlines, reports can all make you stale.  Having regular intervals of ideation, helps to disrupt the work flow to motivate and engage the team.
  2. Keeps the best ideas near the surface. At the end of a good brainstorm, you have some great ideas that bubble up, not all of which you can immediately use. These ideas tend to keep coming up, and that’s OK  Sometimes they are rejected because they are higher risk or resource dependent. But after a few sessions of getting comfortable with these ideas, you might start to see new ways to make them do-able instead of seeing why they can’t happen.
  3. As the Leader of the team, it sends the message that while we are strategic, we win by being more creative, faster, and better on execution. It’s so easy to get stiffer as you move up the career ladder and be the one on the team finding fault with every idea. Just because you are starting to know right from wrong, doesn’t mean you need to crush every idea. Having the brainstorming forum allows the newly experienced brand people the chance to bring ideas forward and it sends the signal that you are an open leader and you value the opinions of your junior staff.
  4. The process the team learns doing the brainstorms becomes part of their everyday job. Even on small problems, they’ll come up with a list of possible solutions, use some criteria to judge, narrow down the list to the best idea, and then be ready with their recommendation. They’ll be able to show their leader they’ve looked at the issue from all sides, and considered other ideas. Marketers that fixate on one solution to fix the problem tend to fail more than succeed.

The Warm Up

Every session should have a warm up, either 5 minutes or 15 minutes. It gets people out of the rut of the day-to-day, and opens up the brains. LemonadeStand One that I’ve used is this very simple innocent photo of the kids selling Lemonade and ask them to come up with as many ideas as they can to the question of “What ways can these two make more money?”.  I offer a reward of cookies to the team with the most ideas and to the best idea. In 5 minutes, teams should be able to list 50 or 100 ideas. Gets out of a lot of crap ideas but it gets rid of them rejecting ideas before saying them. To get to 100, you have to listen to the group and build on someone’s idea. Eliminate the “yeah but….” I get them to circle the top 3 ideas for each group, which forces them to get used to making decisions. One observation I’ll usually make is that the best ideas are usually found in the list beyond 20 or even beyond the 50 mark, emphasizing that you need 100 good ideas to get to 5 great ideas.

Draw out the rule that “AVOID THE YEAH BUT…” because we have a process for ideation and one for making decisions. With a bunch of leaders in the room, normally you have to re-assure them that they should trust the process. The alternative to the “yeah but” is building on the idea with “here’s a different take”.

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The trick to a good brainstorm is very simple:   Diverge, Converge, Diverge Converge.

Diverge #1:

Divide the room up into groups of 5-7 people. I prefer to assign one leader who will be writing the ideas, pushing the group for more, throwing in some ideas of their own. A great way for the leader is to say “here’s a crazy idea, who can build on this or make it better”. But if you catch the leader stalling, debating the ideas, then you should push that leader. At this stage you are pushing for quantity not quality. If you have multiple groups in the room, do a rotation where the leader stays put and the group changes.  I like having stations, where each station has a unique problem to solve.

Converge #1:

There’s a few ways you can do this.

  • You can use voting dots where each person gets 5 or 10 dots and they can use them any way they want.  For random executional ideas, this is a great simple way.
  • If there is agreed upon criteria, you can do some type of scoring against each criteria. High, medium, low.
  • If you are brainstorming product concepts or positioning statements, you might want to hold them up to the lens of how unique they are.
  • For things like naming, positioning or promotions, the leader can look at all the ideas and begin grouping them into themes. They might start to discuss which themes seem to fit or are working the best, and use those themes for a second diverge.
  • For Tactics to an annual plan, you can use a very simple grid of Big vs Small and Easy vs Difficult.  In this case, you want to find ways to land in THE BIG EASY.  The reason you want easy is to ensure it has a good return on effort, believing effort and investment have a direct link.
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Diverge #2

The second diverge is where the magic actually happens. You’ve got the group in a good zone. They have seen which ideas are meeting the criteria. Take the list from Converge #1 and push it one more time. Make it competitive among the groups, with a $25 prize, so that people will push even harder.

  • If you narrowed it to themes, then take each theme and push for more and better ideas under each of the themes
  • If you looked at concepts or tactics, then take the best 8-10 ideas and have groups work on them and flush them out fully with a written concept, and come back and present them to the group.
  • If using the grid above, then take the ideas in the big/difficult and brainstorm ways to make it easier.   And if it’s small and easy, brainstorm ways to make it bigger.

Converge #2:  Decision Time

Once you’ve done the second diverge, you’ll be starting to see the ideas getting better and more focused.  Now comes decision time. You can narrow down to a list of ideas to take forward into testing or discussion with senior management. You can take them forward to cost out. You can rank them based on a 12 or 24 month calendar. You can vote using some of the techniques above using voting dots. Or you can assign a panel of those who will vote. But you want to walk away from the meeting with a decision.

Turn the Idea into a Project

Trust that the process gets you into the right zone and make these ideas now a project. Once you have a decision on the best ideas, you want to use the energy and momentum in the room to make the ideas  a reality:

  • assign an owner and support team
  • get them to agree upon goals, issues to resolve
  • get them to map out a timeline (milestones)
  • outline potential resource needs (budget, people, outside agencies)
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Let brainstorming bring an energy and passion into your work.


We run workshops that help Brand teams make better decisions on the way to smarter action plans

We are big believers in the workshop process. We think it’s the best way to get the decision makers in the room, push for alignment, make decisions and drive the team towards action. The most noticeable point of difference we offer is that we will challenge you with new ideas to get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. As the facilitator, I bring my executive experience into the room, ready to challenge the thinking and pushing for better answers. It’s like having another VP Marketing in the room.

While anyone can recommend a strategy, we recommend a realistic strategy that drives towards action. Quite frankly, I’m not big on consultants that just bring in big presentations that just sit on the shelf and never make it to the market. They cost a lot, take a long time, and in general they are written by consultants that have never run a business. Even Ad Agencies can recommend strategy, but they usually bring an agency bias and just give strategies that set up work they want to make–whether it drives growth for your business or not. I’ve run many businesses and I understand the pressure you’re facing on driving growth.

My personal promise to you is that I will get your brand in a better position for future growth

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept.custom_business_card_pile_15837We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. 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 contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

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New Axe ad campaign trying to be the “Dove” brand for young men

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

71hRmSv1NvL._SL1500_The Axe consumer has grown up and now Axe wants to grow up with that consumer. When my son was 13, he started using the Axe brand. One day, I was walking past him and he asked if I wanted a spray.  I said “No, I don’t want to smell like a 13-year-old”. My son is now in University now and uses “The One” by Dolce and Gabana. Even he doesn’t want to smell like a 13-year-old. And now, Axe is showing they no longer want to be the brand for 13-year-olds. They want to grow up.

Axe has released an Ad campaign that feels a bit like Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign. (Axe and Dove are both owned by Unilever) Unilever does a fantastic job in bringing consumer insights into their work. “Masculinity today is going through seismic changes. More than ever, guys are rejecting rigid male stereotypes,” says Matthew McCarthy, senior director of Axe and men’s grooming at Unilever. “We’ve been part of guys’ lives for decades, and Axe champions real guys and the unique traits that make them attractive to the world around them. In recent years, Internet searches by men on hair tips eclipsed female in volume. Men are curious about experimenting and trying different things and are spending more time in front of the mirror. It’s much more acceptable.”

The new Axe message is “you don’t have to be perfect, just be your best self”. The ad shows various iterations of the new modern man from brainiacs to one with a big nose, from protestors to dancing in heels or dancing in a wheel chair. Whoever you are, Axe wants you to feel good about yourself and “Find your magic”. 

The challenge for Axe is that it will take time to transform. They will have to stand by their convictions should sales slip. The Axe brand did such a great job in creating that edgy, hilarious, egomaniac, sexy teenage male positioning, the reputation of Axe is deeply engrained in our minds. Here’s the type of Ad we are normally used to seeing from Axe.

This is a good start for Axe brand. It will take time to transform the brand. My hope is they they don’t give up quickly. 

At Beloved Brands, we lead workshops on Marketing Execution that can help your brand team explore their role as a leader in the process, how to write a strategic brief, how to judge and make decisions on marketing execution and then how to give feedback to the agencies. Here’s the powerpoint file:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. 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 contact us, email us at or call us at416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrandsPositioning 2016.081

Coke’s new Ad campaign has more fizzle than sizzle

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

coke-taste-the-feeling-1I have been impressed with Coke’s Marketing execution the past couple of years. I love the Coke Freestyle machines where you can customize your own drink from up to 100 options. And I have to admit loving the names on the bottle, even though I had my doubts in the beginning. All that great stuff, and yet the sales have been sluggish for the past 15 months. It’s not the activity that is at fault. It’s just that people want healthier options and Coke is now fighting against that major consumer movement away from Sugary or Aspartame drinks. Sugary cereals are going through the same crisis. But since Coke can’t “fix” the health trend, they may as well try to fix the activities–even if it’s not broken. 

With the earnings report showing that Coke’s revenue has fallen for the past 3 straight quarters, I can only imagine the CEO walking down the hall to find the CMO and say “we need your Advertising to sell more product”. 

At Beloved Brands, we believe that Advertising can only move one body part at a time: the head, the feet, the heart or the soul.Creative Brief 2016 Extract.001

Here’s a great example of a Coke ad idea called “Remove labels this Ramadan” that really touches the consumer’s soul. Even with 19 Million views, it likely didn’t sell a lot of Coke.

To me, an Advertising idea is like a magnet. When it gets too far away from the brand, it no longer moves the brand. The “share happiness” campaign was a huge umbrella idea, but likely so huge, the one thing it didn’t do is move product. 

Today, Coke announced two moves in rolling out their new “Taste the Feeling” advertising campaign. First, you will see in the work that they are clearly linking life moments with drinking Coke. Meaning the creative team was told: “we have to SELL MORE PRODUCT”. Or as I would say, the ads have to move feet.  Second, they announced they would have ONE Master Brand creative idea for all 3 Coke products, red Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero.

Here is the main spot Coke launched today, appropriately called Anthem.

I would say it’s an OK spot, not a great spot. For a 90 second spot called “Anthem” it lacks the emotional appeal you would expect, and it won’t really generate any viral share-ability. It has a lot of product shots, but not really the connectivity needed to move product. And I barely even noticed any Diet Coke or Coke Zero. 

To evaluate advertising, we use something we call the ABC’S, which stands for Attention, Branding, Communication and Stickiness. I’d say these score low on attention, moderate on branding, modest on communication and pretty low on stickiness. These type of spots that show a lot of consumer moments to a song usually end up as wallpaper that falls into the background of our multi-tasking lifestyle. There’s no real compelling story here.Marketing Execution 2016.055

Here’s another TV ad called “What is Coke for?”

Again, a bit generic. No emotional pull. Lots of Coke fizzle. And hard to find the Diet Coke or Coke Zero. 

The print does a better job in capturing emotion than the TV, showing how Coke fits in to various moments of your life. 




Here’s a challenge to Coke, if you are going to name your new spot “Anthem”. make sure it is as epic as this 1971 TV ad: 

Do you think this new campaign will increase Coke’s revenue?

Here’s a workshop we run on how to get better Marketing Execution. In this workshop, we go through how to come up with an Executional brief, based on both positioning and strategy, we take you through how to judge the work and how to provide motivating feedback to your agencies.

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

BBI ads for 2015.011We 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 or phone me at 416 885 3911Positioning 2016.081

The consumer has changed dramatically. Have you changed enough?

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

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Marketing has changed dramatically and if you are not changing with it, then you will not be able to unleash the full potential of your brand nor will you be able to unleash your own full potential as a Brand Leader. When I say that Marketing has changed, people think I am about to talk about the change in media options over the last 15 year, with the opening up of digital, social and search. Sure, that has changed the way we do things, but is really at the surface level. Starting at the turn of this century, we began witnessing a deeper underlying change happening with consumers, who have begun rewarding those brands who exceed their expectations, who have gravitated towards brands that treat them as though they are special, and who have become loyal to brands that open up and establish a higher purpose worthy of connecting with.

Consumers ended the last century tired of the crap that brands kept promising, jaded by the tricks brands used to get them to buy, leaving them feeling burned by over-promise and under-delivery. Consumers now want and expect more. Consumers want to be appreciated and they are willing to love the brand that will treat them like they are the only person that matters. Everything a brand does, should start and end with the consumer in mind. Brands are shifting from fighting for a space in the mind of the consumer to fighting for a place in the consumers heart. It is about becoming one of the favorite parts of the consumers’ day, not just pure product performance. The change in media is merely an enabler to the underlying change, but not a driver. The best brands of today are loved.The media options have had a dramatic influence on the consumers lifestyle–the number of messages, multi-tasking and being tired of being burned. The change in the consumer should drive your Media Planning more than the change in media

  1. Consumers see more brand messages than their brains can handle. 
    • In the year 2015, consumers see up to 7,000 brand messages every day. The fastest thing our brains now do is reject advertising messages. The digital ads on every website you visit, at the top, on the side, on the bottom, drop down boxes. Whenever you turn on Facebook, every google search you make. Take the subway and see hundreds or drive to work and see the same. We now surf messages quickly and only engage in a few each day. Life was much simpler in the last century when consumers saw a few billboards on the way home from work, had dinner and watched Seinfeld on TV seeing a few ads each night. But, in the current world, your consumer is being bombarded by brands. Are you doing anything to change the way you approach consumers to ensure you are gaining their attention?
  2. Consumers are constantly multi-tasking—driving, walking, talking.
    • Even with 7,000 messages a day, consumers are barely watching. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) means people are constantly multi-tasking. I rarely watch a TV show without my laptop or phone nearby. Most people sleep beside their phone and read updates as soon as they awake. Even with laws against texting and driving, I see it every day. And walk downtown in a straight line and you are bound to walk into someone “walking and texting”. Once you gain the consumers attention, you have to find a way to engage them to stay with your brand. What are you doing to hold the attention of your consumer to avoid them being distracted away?
  3. Consumers are tired of being burned by faulty brand promises.
    • Consumer marketing is a little over 100 years now and hopefully consumers have become much more sophisticated in their decision-making. Last century, we saw too many brands over-promise and under-deliver. But brand reputations are now being made and equally dying based on the consumers ability to do their homework. They do their own research, they can ask friends or read on-line reviews. If they are burned by a brand, they quickly spread the message. Have you figured out a brand promise that you can deliver beyond the purchase moment? Have you created an experience that will get purchasers to become brand fans?
  4. Consumers now take control and action over the buying process.
    • Consumers now control what they buy. They are not sold to. Last century it was all about selling. In the current world, it’s all about buying. They are taking full control over the buying process–gaining awareness about brands from friends, only considering after doing their own research to validate what they are hearing and then they figure out the ideal pathway to the purchase moment. They read labels, read reviews and make up their own minds. They pose questions to friends for advice. Putting 100% of your budget on a 30 second TV no longer works. Have you figured out how to co-manage the path to the purchase moment along side the consumer to help them consider, search, purchase and experience your brand?
  5. Consumers connect with brands they believe in.
    • Consumers now want and expect more. They line up to brands that line up to their values and expectations. Consumers want to be appreciated and they are willing to love the brand that will treat them like they are the only person that matters. Ethics and behavior now matter. We are seeing the ethics of brands like Volkswagen and GM destroying the brand reputation. We are seeing Chipotle facing small regional safety crisis points, with the news spreading like wild-fire and the brand is dying before our eyes. Consumers have full access to information and they are not just buying what you do, but why you do it. The most loved brands are based on a big idea that consumers connect with, yet that idea has to reflect the brand’s soul. Have you figured out your brand purpose and then figured out how to build your stated brand purpose into your brand story, your product innovation and the brand experience? Have you figured out how to make the brand purpose be part of the purchase moment as a deal closer to a tie between two brands?
  6. Consumers reward amazing experiences over products alone.
    • Last century, consumers just bought products like Tide, Kodak and Pampers. Most of them we learned about on quick 30 second TV ads that followed a similar formula screaming “we are the best”, shown every half hour trying to drive awareness. But consumers are connecting at a deeper level with brands that offer an experience that over-delivers the promise. With Starbucks, it’s more about the “moments” than it is about the “coffee”. Everyone keeps pointing to the fact Starbucks coffee finishes middle of the pack in blind taste tests. But you cannot replicate the experience of nice leather chairs, cool music, great conversations, amazing culture of people. We are starting to see that the new product is becoming the experience, and while claims supported the product, it is the organization’s culture that supports the experience. Have you figured out to create an experience around your brand that brings it life beyond the product itself? 
  7. Consumers explore rationally, but stay emotionally.
    • In this 21st century economy, the winning brands are those who can create strong emotional bonds with their consumers. While brands might gain entry into the consumers mind in the first 7 seconds, consumers are now emotionally engaging with brands. Research companies like Hotspex show that over 50% of brand decisions are emotionally based. To achieve Brand Love,  brand needs a Big Idea that expresses your brand’s soul and serves to connect with consumers while shaping the internal culture of the brand. Brands need Focus in the choices a brand makes in terms of vision, strategy, positioning and execution. And brands need to show Passion in everything to drive creativity that connects with consumers and precision that helps create brand experiences that exceed expectations. The best brands build every touchpoint around the Big Idea including the promise, brand story, innovative products, ubiquitous purchase moments and brand experiences. How will you use Big Ideas, focus and passion to really create a bond with your consumers to turn them into brand fans that love your brand?

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What is it that creates a bond between the consumer and the brand? You need to be able to describe your brand to CONSUMERS in 7 seconds, 60 seconds, 30 minutes and over the lifetime of the brand, always telling the same story. 

  • In today’s crowded branded marketplace, the modern consumers see 7,000 brand messages a day. The fastest thing our brains do is reject brand messages. Brands need an entry point to gain permission to the consumer’s brain. Can you explain your brand in 7 seconds?
  • After decades of being burned by false promises, modern consumers are naturally cynical and constantly doubting brands. They test the brand by asking detailed questions. Brands need a solid story that closes off any doubts consumers may have. Can you explain your brand in 60 seconds?
  • Modern consumers like to take control over their buying process as they move from consideration to search and finally to a purchase moment. Brands need to move with consumers through to the purchase moment. Can you explain your brand in 30 minutes?
  • As the modern consumer experiences the brand, they either accept or reject the promise. Consumers are more loyal to brands they share a common purpose and shared values. Brands need to create experiences that match the brand story. Can you describe your brand over the lifetime of the brand, always telling the same story?

What are you doing to deal with the changing consumer?  

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Below is our Beloved Brands Workshop we run on Strategic Thinking:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911

BBI Creds Deck 2016.014

Do your own damn performance review!!!

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

This time of year is when you sit down with your boss and have the dreaded annual performance review. 

It’s likely dreaded for a reason. You hate getting feedback and your boss hates giving feedback. These days performance reviews feel like a bit of jockeying. When you do you self-evaluation, you avoid putting anything that can be used against you. And when your boss does your evaluation, they will avoid putting anything that will imply a promotion, raise or even maintaining your employment. Maybe it’s time that we think of the performance review as a necessity of the job, but we should stop thinking this is big defining career moment that will help you. If you have a great boss, use it to your advantage. Some of my bosses took it seriously, many did not. In my 20 years of working, half of my performance reviews were worthwhile, and considering I had one manager for 7 years who did an excellent job for me, that leaves 13 other years where the reviews did very little for me. I recommend you take control of your own career and never be at the mercy of others.

If you are managing your career, then give yourself a Performance Review

We look at Marketing Careers over 4 different levels: Assistant Brand Manager (ABM), Brand Manager (BM), Marketing Director and VP Marketing. Companies may use various titles, but the ABM is generally a do-er or contributor to strategy, while the BM is the owner of the plan and the go-to person on the brand. Usually the Director manages a broader team and the VP oversees the entire marketing team. 

We have mapped out at the 32 essential skills that a Brand Leader needs, at every level. What I have found is that marketing is about learning the fundamentals and then use your experience to continuously improve. As much as your company self-assessment is guarded and careful, when you do your own, you have to be very honest with yourself to identify what you need to work on.

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When it comes to Analytics you should be mastering this as an Assistant Brand Manager and Brand Manager, but you have to continue to use these skills throughout your career. While digging into every aspect of the business helps you learn the basic analytics, what separates great marketers on analytics are those who can transform all those numbers into an analytical story that helps set up a decision point.

Brand Planning is usually owned by the Brand Manager. But honestly it can take a few years to become competent at writing plans. If not done well, planning can get out of control. The goal of a brand plan is to get everyone on the same page, to ensure everyone is moving in the direction that is outlined in the brand plan. There are so many elements of a plan you need to get comfortable with, from creating a brand vision that motivates everyone, to purpose and values and onto strategy and tactics. To ensure action comes out of the plan, the Brand Leader should be creating specific project plans for each element of the plan.

While positioning is one of the core strategic functions of marketing, it is rare for a marketer to be involved in positioning their brand. Most are taking the positioning from the previous marketer. Positioning is really about simplifying everything on the brand, down to something that is focused and digestible for consumers. A good positioning has a focused target market, one main benefit and two reasons to believe. From that positioning, you can create a Brand Concept or even move forward to writing a Creative Brief that can help execution. Too many brand leaders lack the ability to write a brief and it’s impacting marketing execution.

Any type of advertising requires brand leaders to use judgement and make decisions. The decisions should be balanced with strategic thinking and gut feel for the creative choices and media options. While we all have natural instincts even before we get into marketing, being able to articulate those over a complex network of advertising experts and over a long project timeline are very difficult. Practice these skills early in your career on smaller projects and perfect them as you move to more complex and bigger projects. With a large advertising project, the brand leader has to work through the ad agency that would include 3 distinct groups–account team, creative team and strategic planner. Then moving towards production, you need to oversee a series of subject matter experts including producers, directors, sound technicians and actors. You have to stay true to your vision at every stage of the project. I have found that with each new project right up to the VP level, you should be continuously looking to improve. How you make decisions, how you motivate others and how you communicate will either make or break the advertising projects you are leading.

New products can vary in their degree of complexity. The simplest ones are incremental launches using the same brand name, and using the same production and distribution channels. The more complex type new products involve a new brand name, a new technology, new distribution channels, new production, government regulation, determining the projected sales, costs and support needed.

One big growing weakness is the go-to-market execution that involves the marketing and sales teams to work together. Over 20 years ago, it was very common that marketers did a stint or two in the sales department. As the roles have become more senior and specialized, it has become more difficult to move people between the roles. This has created silos between Sales and Marketing, leaving the marketer with a perception that they live in an “ivory tower”. There is a skill in learning how to influence the sales team, ensuring that your marketing and sales are working together to make the brand stronger. At any stage, you should be constantly getting into the stores and meeting with sales people. As you get more senior, you should learn how to present to buyers.

In terms of Leadership and Managing you need to hold your team to a consistently high standard of work in strategic thinking and planning. Then you need to hold your team to a consistently high standard of work in execution in the market. In terms of people management, you need to be seen as actively interested in helping your team to manage their careers. Teach, guide and direct your team members for higher performance. Training and development provides on-going skills development to make the team better.

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We have also mapped out 15 leader behaviors for you to also use as a self-evaluation, looking at the behaviors that separate great Brand Leaders from the pack. A great Brand Leader is accountable to results, strong on people leadership, a solid strategic thinker, carries broad influence and brings an authentic style. Leadership behaviors are harder for us to self-evaluate. I would recommend you have casual conversations with those you can trust to give you feedback. There is a term called “blind spots”, where people who you work with know that you have a weak, but you don’t know.

Identify your own gaps

We recommend that you go through each of the dimensions and give yourself a score in relation to your peers. A score of 5 means you are one of the best in your department in a given area, a 4 is above average, 3 means you are average and the scores of 1’s and 2’s would mean you have a gap. Force the scores so that you can clearly identify 3 skills and 3 leader behaviors as being a relative gap to your peers. Based on where you are with your career, I recommend you end up using the year to close Then as you build your own personal plan for the year, map out a plan of attack for the coming year. 

2015 brand careers.019Don’t worry, we all have gaps. At every level of my own career, I had some major gaps. Many I wasn’t even aware of and some I was even in denial. Only as I moved up to Director and VP level was I able to close some of the gaps. For example, I struggled throughout my career when dealing with the sales team, was never a great negotiator and always weak when it came to managing up. Maybe if I had one more self-evaluations along the way, I could have closed the gaps sooner.

We all have gaps. What are going to do about closing your gaps?

Below is a Powerpoint presentation of a workshop we run on Managing your Brand Career. I hope that it challenges you to think differently and identify some areas you can improve for next year.

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. 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 or phone me at 416 885 3911

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