How marketers should deploy the right leadership style for the right brand situation

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Situational leadership in marketing means identifying the right situation for when to be a strategic thinker, an instinctual thinker ora task master. The challenge is we each bring a natural style and have to learn the other two with experience. It is all about situational leadership.

situational leadership

 

Strategic Thinkers

Strategic leaders see ‘what-if’ type questions before they look for potential solutions. They are able to map out a range of decision trees that intersect, by imagining how events will play out in the future. They think of every option before taking action.

The trick to being strategic is to think slowly with strategy. If you move too quickly on brand strategy, you will be unable to see the insights beneath the surface, and you risk solving the wrong problem.

5 ways to slow your brain down to think strategically

The risk to just deploying the one leadership style is if strategic thinkers just think too long, they spiral around, unable to decide, and miss the opportunity window.

  1. Find your own thinking time. Walks at lunch or a drive somewhere to get away from it all. Block hour-long “thinking meetings” with yourself.
  2. Organize your week to fit your thinking pace. Talk “big ideas” on a Friday morning so you can take the weekend to think. Schedule quick updates on Monday afternoon that clears your mind for the week.
  3. Do the deep thinking before the decision time comes. Always be digging deep into the analytics to stay aware, prepare yourself, no matter your level.
  4. Next time in a meeting, ask the best questions. Too many leaders try to impress everyone with the best answers. Next time, try to stump the room with the best questions that slow down your team and force them to think.
  5. Proactively meet your partner teams. Get to know the needs of your sales teams or agency account leaders, and not wait for a problem or conflict. Come to them proactively with possible solutions so you both win.

Instinctual Thinkers

Instinctual leaders jump right in because their gut already sees the right answer solution. They move fast, using emotional, impulse and intuitive gut feel. They choose emotion over logic. This “gut feel” fosters high creativity.

The trick to be instinctual, you must think quickly on execution. Without intuitive freedom, you will move too slowly, overthink and second-guess yourself. You risk destroying the creativity of the right solution.

5 ways to speed up your brain to think instinctually

  1. Have fun, and be in the moment: Relax, smile, have fun, stay positive. If you get too tense, stiff, too serious, it can impact the team negatively.
  2. Focus on first impressions. Don’t let the strategy get in your way of seeing what you think of the creativity. This allows you to see it how your consumer might see it. You still have time to think strategically about it after your instincts.
  3. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. You have to represent your consumer to the brand. Try to react and think as they might. Learn to observe and draw insights.
  4. Do not make up concerns that are not there. While you need to be smart, don’t cast every possible doubt that can destroy creativity. Too many brand leaders destroy creativity one complaint at a time.
  5. Let it simmer for a while, before rejecting. You always have the option to reject an idea. Why not let it breathe a little, see it you can make it even better. If it gets better, you win. If not, you can still reject it, without any risk.

Task Masters

Task masters stay in control to get things done, keep things on time and on budget. They are always in full control, organized and on time. They never lose sight of the end goal, efficiently knock down roadblocks, to keep everyone else on track with time and budgets.

To be a successful task master,  it is to realize there is a business to run. Without staying focused on the end goal, strategic thinking and creative instincts are wasted, resulting in missed opportunities.

You can overly rely on the task master, the risk is you end up with hollow thinking, OK creativity and OK business results.

5 ways to be more of a task master

  1. Set high standards for you and the team: Hold the team to consistently high standards of work in analytics, strategic thinking, planning and execution in the market (advertising, innovation, purchase moment and brand experience)
  2. People leadership: Provide a team vision, consistently motivate others, be genuinely and actively interested in helping your team manage their careers.
  3. Lead the process: Organize, challenge and manage the processes so your team can focus on thinking, planning and executing. Guide the team to get things done on time. on budget and on forecast.
  4. Hit deadlines: Never look out of control or sloppy. Marketers have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other. In Marketing, there are no extensions, just missed opportunities.
  5. Know your business: Don’t get caught off-guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.

Finding that balance

As a leader, it is crucial for you to deploy the right leadership style in the moment, to be able to maneuver. Your brain should operate like a race car driver, slow in the corners and fast on the straight away. Change brain speeds, think slowly when faced with difficult strategy and think quickly with your best instincts on execution.

When you are in a team situation, try to recognize the natural styles of each of your team members. Make sure the team is well balanced, to ensure someone is the thinker, someone has the intuition to break through the clutter and then someone is the task master. Appreciate what each person brings to the table, leverage their natural strengths and ensure you be honest about your own style.

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.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

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 big 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. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving 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. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

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

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

 

 

If your brand is afraid of Amazon, then you should be terrified of Alibaba

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

[sg_popup id=”9″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]Now begins the North American battle of Amazon vs Walmart, with the winner to take on Alibaba on the world’s retailer stage.

alibabaI love watching the Kentucky Derby, especially those horses that start off slow, then pick it up on the back straight, and then basically fly past everyone on the last turn, like they are standing still. That’s how I feel about watching the Alibaba brand.

The joint venture between Walmart and Google is a signal that both might be a little bit scared of Amazon. 

But, Alibaba is using their dominance in the world’s largest market (China) to pick up all that speed in the back straight and likely beat both Amazon and Walmart.

Walmart is a tough competitor. They won’t go down without a fight.

Obviously, Amazon has a huge advantage in the US, but things are about to get really ugly as Walmart and Amazon attempt to destroy each other. 

But, if you have ever dealt with Walmart, you would have to be an idiot to ever count them out. Their culture focuses on the relentless fixation on fast-moving items that helps drive cash flow. Sure, Walmart beats up their vendors over price–but that’s mainly to drive sell through. If your brand moves slow, there is no debate–you are told to speed up your sales, and if you don’t, you are gone.

I remember when Walmart starting sending us their weekly sales data. My first thought was “Wow, this is true partnership, amazing data, thanks Walmart”. Then the questions started to come. “Your 250ml cherry flavored cough syrup is not selling fast enough, what will you do to accelerate turns”. We lowered the price. Or even worse, “Your Listerine Pocketpaks product accounts for the highest theft of any product in our stores, fix it”. We changed the packaging, just because they asked us.   In the bricks and mortar space, while most department store retailers sell through their inventory in 130-150 days. Walmart sells through their inventory in 29 days. That’s cash flow.

I expect Walmart will go lower on price than Amazon can tolerate. What retailer owned the low price positioning before Walmart?  Sears. If you go compare prices at Walmart and Sears, you will see why Sears stores are empty and about to go bankrupt.

Does the Google partnership help Walmart?  A little. But both better step it up fast. If Walmart loses to Amazon, the case study class starts off with “Walmart should have started their on-line war with Amazon in 2002, not 2017.”

Even if Amazon can tolerate lower prices and eventually beats Walmart, it will do some damage to their profits. Amazon will experience lower margins, squeezed cash flow, and a divided consumer base. It will further open the possibility of seeing Alibaba entering the US market.

Why Alibaba will win

Alibaba, valued at $420 Billion has seen an 80% increase in the market capitalization in the past twelve months. In the same period, Amazon has seen a 20% increase, still with a slight lead at $465 Billion. 

Here are 5 reasons why Alibaba will eventually win the global e-commerce retail space:

  1. Alibaba can utilize their home-field advantage. Alibaba is dominating the Chinese market, which is the #1 e-commerce population in the world. China has 500 million active on-line users, is twice the size of the US market. Walmart and Amazon will divide up the US market.
  2. Alibaba has a business model that delivers higher profitability. Alibaba’s business model, with no listing fees, with the bulk of their revenue coming from keywords and digital-advertising is closer to the social media model. This gives Alibaba significantly higher margins than Amazon. 
  3. Alipay payment system.  Alibaba launched a digital payment system in 2004, just for their own customers. Along with WePay, it has become the accepted method of payment in China. They have moved to a cashless and even cardless payment world. 
  4. Alibaba will ride the growth curve of the Chinese Economy. Despite the recent slowdown, China’s economy is still growing at almost three times the rate of the US – around 7% over the last couple of years, compared to less than 2.5%.The US has a growing trade deficit – it imports more than it exports – while China imports significantly less than it exports, resulting in a trade surplus.
  5. Alibaba’s sales will benefit from the growth of the Chinese Middle Class. In the last ten years, the average income for China has tripled. It is expected that from 2012 to 2022, those in China making more than $34K US will increase from 3% currently up to 9%, and those in the growing middle class ($16K to $34K) will increase from 14% up to 54%.

So when will Alibaba move west? Likely after the Walmart vs Amazon dust settles. By 2020, I would expect both Walmart and Amazon to be weakened. Whoever wins will have to take on a very healthy, highly profitable, cash-rich Alibaba. Realistically, Alibaba could end up two or three times the size of Amazon.Then it will be like watching that horse in the Kentucky Derby, with Alibaba rounding the final turn on the way to the finish line.

To read more on competitive strategy, click on this link: 

Competitive Brand Strategy

 

In retail, the smart money should be on Alibaba for the win.  

 

To learn about strategic thinking, follow this powerpoint slide presentation. 

 

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 linkBeloved 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

 

Non-Marketing people really need to stop defining what marketing people do.

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

I suppose that everyone who has a TV and can critique Super Bowl ads or those with a Twitter account thinks they can now say they are a marketer expert. Sadly, we have let far too many people use the word “MarketingMarketing”or “Brand” in their title. The commentary that I see coming from non marketers is borderline cringe-worthy or hilarious. I have to tell you that the comments are silly.

When I read, “Marketers need to think more about the consumer” I think you’ve never met a real marketer. The best marketers starting doing that around 1915. I guess somehow this is now popular among non-marketers.

When I hear,  “Marketers should analyze data”, again, I’m thinking what incompetent marketers have you been hanging around with. That’s been a major part of the job since 1950. Sure, big data. But I have been working any data from share report data to Ipsos tracking data to weekly Walmart sales tracking data.

Do you know what marketers do?

When I read, “The CEO should be in charge of the brand”, I think “Well then the CEO should be in charge of the IT system”. Sure, in charge, but they should be smart enough to delegate to the experts who will make their brand stronger.

From my experience, the best marketing led organizations have bottom up recommendations, empowering the brand manager to tell their directors what they want to do, who then support them in moving that up to the VP and President.

The worst organizations are when the CEO walks down the hall and asks “Why are we not on Instagram? My 15-year-old daughter was just showing me how cool it is this weekend”. This is likely the reason why the average tenure of a CMO is under 24 months at this point. They are likely sports coaches, hired to be fired, by the impatience of getting results.

When I hear, “Marketing needs to be more than just advertising” once again, you just don’t understand the job….typically advertising is 10-15% of the job.The best marketers determine the strategy, figure out the brand promise, brand communication, product innovation, purchase moment and consumer experience…they touch all, decide all, but they let their experts run each of those touch points.

Marketers don’t just “do marketing”

I am glad so many want to be in Marketing. But you really should have to earn your way into it. Go interview for a job, get rejected a few times, push to really get in there and then learn like ton for a few years. I spent 20 years in marketing. I could not believe how much I learned  in my first five years, then even more in the next five, then way more in the following five and absolute insane amount in those last five years. I’ve now been a consultant for over five years and I swear I know twice as much as I learned in the first 20.

Marketing is not just an activity. The best marketers have to think, define, plan, execute and analyze, using all parts of your brain, your energy and your creativity.

OK, my rant is over.

 

To learn more, here’s a presentation on how to create a beloved brand:

 

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

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

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

Beloved Brands book

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

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

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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graham Robertson signature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

A powerful vision story about Dan O’Brien, US Olympian

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

One of the biggest areas I see brands struggling is on the crafting an inspiring Vision Statement. Many don’t have one, and those that do have these long convoluted statements that don’t really say anything. After every stakeholder adds their own two cents and it’s no longer a vision. Pretty soon, your attempt at a vision looks more like a local bi-law explaining where you can fish, land your airplane and display real estate signs all in one statement. A smart vision statement should inspire and focus your team. Let me tell you the story about Dan O’Brien and a little piece of paper that steered him to achieving everything he wanted.

The story of Olympian, Dan O’Brien

He was a U.S. track and field superstar back in the 1990s.  He competed in the Decathlon and won pretty much everything: World Champion, Olympic Champion, US Champion and World Record Holder that would stand for 10 years–a lifetime in the track and field world.  

Dan Obrien’s backstory

Even though he met tremendous success in his track career, it didn’t really get off to a great start. O’Brien went to the University of Idaho on a track scholarship. He struggled with classes, excelled at partying, lost the scholarship and flunked out. “I was just not prepared for what it took academically,” he recalls. “I’d get so far behind, I’d just give up.”  

O’Brien went to work as a cabinetmaker in Moscow, Idaho. He fell into debt, kited checks and wound up in jail wearing a blue jumpsuit and flip-flops. Later, there was a DUI arrest. He was clearly at rock bottom and needed some inspiration to get himself out.  

At his lowest point, O’Brien attended a decathlon clinic run by MILT CAMPBELL, the 1956 Olympic gold medalist, who asked each decathlete whether he had written his goals on a piece of paper and placed it his wallets. O’Brien said he immediately went to his room and wrote “9,000 points” on one side of a small piece of paper and “world’s greatest athlete” on the other.

The piece of paper steered him to achieve.

“I wouldn’t have achieved what I have if I hadn’t set those goals,” he said. “I was a floater and as soon as I set solid goals, I could achieve what I wanted.”

With 9,000 points that would be the clear world record holder for decades to come. World’s Greatest Athlete was always given to the reigning world champion of the Decathlon. He kept that paper with him as inspiration and direction. Dan O’Brien didn’t know, but he had written a vision statement.

As he climbed out of his struggles, he went to a Junior College, starting to compete again. He then started to compete on the world stage, keeping that note in his pocket. By 1991, he won the World Championships Decathlon completing half of his Vision Statement. His career was moving full steam ahead.  

Qualifying for the Olympics

In 1992, he was now at the US Qualifying event to get into the Barcelona Olympics. As the current reigning world champion, it was natural that the US Olympic team was relying on O’Brien to make the team and bring home Gold for the Americans. Same with TV networks, sponsors and event organizers.

At the Qualifying meet for the US Team, O’Brien was in first place after 7 of the 10 events, looking as a shoe-in for the team. But then came the high jump. O’Brien made what seemed like an odd choice of going for a higher height than he needed to and he never cleared the bar after the required number of attempts. He went from 1st place to 15th and missed qualifying for the Games.

People were stunned and confused. Why would he go for the higher height, instead of settling for something that would keep him in contention to qualify? Well, it comes back to the second part of his vision statement: 9,000 points. Based on where he stood after 7 events, Dan’s calculations showed that he could only get to 9,000 points if he made the higher jump. Yes, high risk, high reward. But it was in line with his vision.

Afterall, Dan didn’t have “Olympic Champion” on his little piece of paper.  

Not qualifying for the games was a bit of a disaster for Reebok who had put all their money into O’Brien. The US Olympic team was mad, fans were upset and NBC was furious. But Dan kept pushing towards that dream of 9,000 points. Only 3 months after the Barcelona Olympics, O’Brien set a world record of 8,860 points, a record that would stand for a decade. And in 1996, he would go on and win Olympic Gold for his country.  

Why I love this story so much?

First, if you put everything in your vision statement it gets so watered down. He could have put a laundry list, including Olympic Champion, Millions in endorsements, make tons of money and win every event. But then it would just be he achieved 3 out of 5 things on his list.  

But he decided to focus on what motivated him. While you might wish he won the 1992 Olympic Gold, it wasn’t on his piece of paper. He left off what wasn’t important and stuck to it. You should do the same and you’ll find your vision statement offers you both focus and inspiration.  

A good vision should scare you a little bit and it should excite you a lot.  

A vision should open your mind up. It should challenge your thinking. Stretch you to think of things not immediately within reach.  

When Dan O’Brien looks back on his career, we can see how that little piece of paper drove him. The fact that he’ll never reach his dream score of 9,000 points in decathlon rubs like a blister: “I came up short because I set the goal too low,” O’Brien says, grinning. “If I had tried to make 9,200, I might have got the 9,000.”

So how can you use this story to challenge yourself and your team to ask: what’s would be on your piece of paper?

How to find your brand vision

A well-written brand vision should be the ultimate end-in-mind achievement, which answers, “Where could we be?” Think about significant accomplishments that would make you feel completely fulfilled. Put a stake in the ground to describe an ideal state for your future. Every smart brand plan must start with a brand vision statement. When I see brand teams who struggle, they usually lack a brand vision.

Some organizations get so fixated on achieving short-term goals; they chase every tactic in front of them just to make their numbers. Your vision should steer your entire brand plan. Choose the language and phrases within your vision that will inspire, lead, and steer your team.

Examples of best-in-class brand vision statements

Use these statements to inspire you as you write your own vision statement. Maybe you will see something that feels familiar to what is in your mind or at least a structure for how you would write your own vision statement.

Your vision should scare you a little and excite you a lot. You should wonder if you can achieve it and then think of how it would feel if you did. While we do not always accomplish every vision, we rarely achieve more than we thought was possible.

Once you establish your vision, it sets up the key issues of your plan, including obstacles in the way of achieving your vision, which then sets up the strategies for how to reach the vision. As mentioned earlier, a brand plan has to flow like an orchestra, with each element directly related to the others.

Imagine the perfect picture

To be a visionary, you must be able to visualize your future. You should be able to imagine the perfect picture of your brand in the future, to helps answer, “Where could we be?” Imagine it is five or ten years from now. You wake up in the most fantastic mood. Think about where you are in your personal life and your business life. Start to imagine an ideal state of what you want. Visualize a perfect future of what has you in such a good mood and write down the most important things you want to achieve. 

  1. What is your future revenue or market share?
  2. Describe the future culture of your company.
  3. What do you want people to say about your brand? 
  4. What do your own to people find motivating about working on your brand?
  5. How do you want customers to describe their experience with your brand?
  6. Name some of the future accomplishments that would make you proud.
  7. What do you do better than anyone else on the planet?
  8. Name something out-of-the-box that would make people talk about your brand.

Checklist for what makes a vision great:

  • Your vision should last 5-10 years.
  • It should help you imagine the ideal picture of “where could we be.”
  • Describe your dream, describing what you see, feel, hear, think, say and wish for your brand.
  • It should be emotional to motivate all employees and partners to rally behind it.
  • It must be easy to understand, in plain words, which may already be a familiar phrase within the company.
  • A great vision is a balance between aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement).
  • Consider adding a financial (sales or profit) or share leadership position (#1) number.

Cautions and caveats when writing your brand vision statements:

  1. A vision should not be a positioning statement.
  2. Make sure you have not already achieved it.
  3. Do not make strategic statements. It is not the “how.”
  4. Try to be single-minded. Keep tightening it. Do not include everything!
  5. Focus on how to build a purpose-driven beloved brand

What’s on your piece of paper you’d put in your pocket?  

My new book, Beloved Brands, coming this spring.

How this Beloved Brands playbook can work for you. The purpose of this book is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. 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 be able to analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

 

 

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.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

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 big 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. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving 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. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

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 bio
 

Case Study: How Special K moved from indifferent to beloved

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Special K is a great case study of a brand who has gone from a one-dimensional boring cereal into something beyond what the brand could imagine. Cereal is one of those categories filled with a touch of magic, many of the beloved brands coming out of the “Mad Men” days of TV advertising. Brands like Corn Flakes, Cheerios, Rick Krispies and Froot Loops all have a certain wholesome charm. But while those brands have ‘historical equity’ it’s not really an equity that can drive sales. I’d say these brands are in a bit of a time warp, a throwback to simpler times when Cartoons were only on Saturday mornings.

Special K

Special K was an indifferent brand

I worked in the cereal business back in the 1990’s and we never thought anything about Special K. It just sat there with a very small and dying share. Basically, it was just the one flavor of cereal. Zero innovation. Just Rice Krispies crushed differently. Trust me, I was on the General Mills side and no competitors were worried about Special K.

The brand idea for Special K has been connected with weight loss since the mid 80s. The ads were focused on 110 calories–which is just a feature, not a benefit for the consumer. And honestly, if you look at most cereals, they’ll say 120-140 calories on the box.

This is a classic example that no one cares what you do until you care what they want. No one at Special K was putting themselves in the shoes of the consumer and asking “so what do I get?” or “how does this make me feel?” It was implied, but it was buried in the woman looking at herself in the mirror.

Our brand love curve

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

Special K was clearly an Indifferent Brand. There was very little consumer opinion, and for those who did buy Special K, they weren’t exactly the most ardent fans of the brand. Not only was the original flavor fairly bland, but everything about the brand was bland. Special K needed to stand for something. It needed an idea. They were dancing around the idea of weight loss but not really bringing the benefit to life.

A brand starts with an idea

The most beloved brands are based on an idea that is worth loving. It is the idea that connects the Brand with consumers. And under the Brand Idea are 5 Sources of Connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including 1) the brand promise 2) the strategic choices you make 3) the brand’s ability to tell their story 4) the freshness of the product or service and 5) the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you. Everyone wants to debate what makes a great brand–whether it’s the product, the advertising, the experience or through consumers. It is not just one or the other–it’s the collective connection of all these things that make a brand beloved.

 

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

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

The brilliant strategy is around the usage occasion of the second meal each day. Cereal had been a category that grew +3% for years, steady only with population growth and some demographics around boomers and echo generations. But now, there was finally a reason to eat cereal twice in one day.

Empowering Women

The communication of the Brand Story become about empowering women to take control using the Two Week Challenge. Here’s a very empowering ad around the “Drop a Jean Size” idea.

With a Brand Idea bigger than just a cereal, Special K’s innovation rivalled that of Apple. It started with the launch of Berry Special K that thrust the brand into a good tasting cereal, and has since added bars, shakes and water. Most recently, they’ve now launched potato chips (only 80 calories for 20 chips) and a Breakfast Sandwich option. it just goes to show you that it’s not about ‘out of the box’ ideas, but rather how you define the box. All these product launches are aligned to the idea of empowering women to maintain their weight. The diversified line up beyond cereal helps off-set any sales softness on cereal. This year, they’ve just announced they are re-looking Special K’s original recipe to keep the cereal share strong.

And rounding out the consumer experience is to take the challenge on-line, gives women a community of encouragement to help achieve their personal weight loss goals. Special K has also launched App for smart phones to help monitor weight goals. Special K has also tapped into time of year occasions around New Years and spring to re-enforce the brand messages.

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Now, you can get our ideal brand plan format

  • Get our ideal Brand Plan in a downloadable PowerPoint file that includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own brand plan.
  • We include slides for vision, purpose, analysis, key issues, strategies, brand positioning statement, and execution plans.
  • You will get the one-page brand plan and brand strategy roadmap. 

You can find Beloved Brands and B2B Brands on Amazon, Rakuten Kobo or Apple Books

To purchase Beloved Brands or B2B Brands, click on the icon where you buy your books 

Beyond the MBA is our virtual brand management training program designed for the real world

You will learn how to think strategically, figure out brand positioning, write brand plans, make decisions on marketing execution and analytical skills.

This is your opportunity to gain access to world-class brand management training

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