Everything Starts and Ends with the Consumer in Mind

brand-leader1As Brand Leaders, our days get busy, running from meeting to meeting, trying to deliver our numbers, gain share and hit our forecasts.  We have a few new products that are long over due and now we’re trying to make the most of them.  Finance has found a potential cost savings from the plant but it’s unsure if it will be off-set by a one time surcharge.  We have a presentation at Wal-Mart next week and think we’ll walk away with a new listing.  We have a new claim from the R&D team that we think delivers superiority versus our closest competitor.   And finally, we have the go-ahead to do a new ad, but we think our senior managers will insist that we make the ad to their exact requirements and that it delivers their new vision statement.  This is an average day in marketing. Except, we have not thought once about the consumer.  Maybe that’s the norm when we get so busy or face pressures to make the numbers.  

I always like to ask Brand Leaders:  “Do you represent your brand to your consumer or do you represent your consumer to the brand?”   Yes, I get stunned looks of confusion when I ask that.  But it’s an important question as to your mindset of how you do your job.  My challenge to you is to start thinking like your consumer and be their representative to your brand.  You’ll notice the work gets better, you’ll see clearer paths to growth and you’ll start to create a brand that the consumer loves rather than just likes.  When this happens, sales go up and the P&L spits out higher profitability.  Because the more loved the brand, the more powerful position it occupies and the more profit it can generate from that source of power.    

Take a Walk In The Shoes of Your Consumer   With most of us, when we first fell in love with marketing, there were two key elements that got our juices going:  strategic thinking and consumer behavior.  Marketing brings these two elements together in a very challenging way.  You should be thinking about your consumer every day, all day.  Yes, you need to hit your sales and share goals.   But your consumers are your only source of revenue and you have to know them intimately.  Solving a consumer challenge feels like the biggest Rubik’s Cube we can find.  The reason I mention this is if you want to connect with your team and motivate them, then start talking about the consumer and you’ll see their engagement go up.  This is what they love.  Be curious about your consumer, constantly watching changes in the marketplace.

Live and breathe insights about your consumers.  Insight is not something you just do when you’re spending the hour that you write your creative brief.  You should be gathering insight at every chance you can, and unleashing that knowledge throughout every day.  Insight is not something that your consumers never knew before.  That would be knowledge not insight.  It’s not data or fact about your brand that you want to tell.  That helps, but you have to go a layer deeper to find your insights.   Oddly enough, Insight is something that everyone already knows. Insight comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only who felt like that”.  That’s why we laugh when see the way that insight is projected with humor, why we get goose bumps when insight is projected with inspiration and why we cry when the insight comes alive through real-life drama.  

Get in the shoes of those Consumers and you’ll quickly realize that consumers do not care about what you do, until you care about what they want.   Instead of mentioning a feature, force yourself to ask “If I’m the consumer so what do I get” five times to see if you can get to the richness of the functional benefits.   Then look at that functional benefit and ask “so how does that make me feel”.  Stop talking features and start talking benefits–both the rational and emotional.   No one has ever wanted a 1/4 inch drill, they just want a 1/4 inch hole.   

Consumers are busier than ever.  Whether it’s working late, trying to balance everything or doing too much, they have so little time.   People are multi-tasking, texting while driving or on the TV while watching TV—which is up 35% this year.  Traditional ways with a 30 second ad and a billboard aren’t having the same effect in today’s world.  The average consumer is exposed to over 6,000 advertising message per day.  The consumers’ brain sorts through the clutter until finds something that might fill their needs.  Imagine your boring logical message, well thought and all, breaking through to that consumer.  Even with the fast paced life, most consumers are bored with life and just want something to entice them.   The simplest way to challenge boredom is to like everything you do unconditionally, but if this bored consumer meets up with a boring brand, it will be rejected very quickly.  You have to matter to those consumers that really care.  And you have to know what connects with them to get the way to stand out.   

Living in the Consumers Shoes is Contagious.  When you start asking about how the consumer buys, what they are thinking about now or what do we want them to think, you’ll notice others on your team following your cues and start thinking like a consumer.  It will be energizing.  When you ask “will our consumer love this” it sets the bar very high.  Here’s my simple challenge for you:  If you don’t love the work you do, how do you expect the consumer to love your Brand.  The best filter for your work is the consumer.  It’s more important than what Wal-Mart thinks or what your boss likes/doesn’t like.  When looking at new products, the R&D team should be more obsessed with what the consumer wants than what they might be capable of coming up in their lab.  As Steve Jobs famously said “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”

Brand Leaders Play It Far Too Safe to Find True Love.  Brand Leaders choose the safety of logic and facts instead of getting too deep or going all emotional with their consumer.  And, most brands end up liked but never end loved.   My Mom Wanted Me to Be an Actuary.  Apparently, an Actuary has one of the longest life expectancies, can make quite a bit of money and they live the ideal work-life balance.  Sounds like the perfect job, but I just couldn’t do it.   What’s lacking in the life of an actuary is the ability to have fun at work or drive all your passion into your work to create something big.   You can make a real difference.   So if you’re not going to be an Actuary…then stop acting like one when you’re the Brand Leader.  We can’t afford to keep doing just the usual, we can’t get stuck in logic and we can’t just satisfy needs.   We need to push to go beyond greatness at every touch point with our selfish and bored consumers.  We need to cultivate a deep emotional relationship with our consumer and we need to entice craving and desire.  

Everything starts and ends with the consumer in mind.  

 

To read about how to Create Beloved Brands, read this:

 

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  gr bbi picWe believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  Our President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

 

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Apple: What Goes Up, Might Come Down

UnknownAs I write this, the stock price for Apple is exactly $500.00  As my old Finance professor would say, that means there is a 50% chance it will go above that price and a 50% chance it will go below.  It has been quite the roller coaster since Tim Cook took over the reigns of the Apple brand–the good news is that stock price is still $125 higher than when he took office 18 months ago, but it’s down $200 in the last 4 month.  What started out for Cook as a Sustaining Success might have quickly turned into a Re-Alignment.  

The Apple brand of today is still healthy, the stores are still packed and sales are still strong.  But the fear is that if Apple’s innovation over the next 18 months looks like Apple’s innovation of the past 18 months, then the Apple brand may be at its peak, no longer on the climb.

A year from now, do you think Apple’s stock will be higher or lower than $500.00?       

My hope is that Apple finds their way and regains the momentum of the brand that has surprised and delighted us like no other brand.  But my fear is they become another Sony that rests on their laurels and coasts for the next decade.  I’m a big Apple fan, typing away on my MacBook Air with my iPad mini and iPhone close by and my iMac sitting on my desk. But it sure does feel like Sony of the early 1990’s.   There’s talk of geographic expansion into China, but that might take their eyes off the real need: we need to see real innovation.  Enough of the incremental BS.  What do you have that will surprise me beyond my wildest dreams?

Five Connectors of a Beloved Brand

To be a Beloved Brand, you must have an idea that’s worth loving.  Under the Brand Idea are 5 sources of connectivity (see diagram below) that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including

  1. Brand promise
  2. Strategic choices
  3. Ability to tell their story
  4. Freshness of the product or service
  5. Overall experience and impressions it leaves with you.  

Everyone wants to debate what makes a great brand–whether it’s the product, the advertising or the experience.   It is not just one or the other, but the collective connection of all five that make a brand beloved.  If one of them weakens against the brand promise, it puts the entire brand at risk.

Slide1

The big idea behind Apple is complexity made simple.  Since every great brand tackles an enemy of the consumer, Apple takes on the frustration and intimidation that consumers have with technology.  The Apple brand promise is we make it easier to love technology, so that you can experience the future no matter who you are.  

Problem #1:  Has Apple Broken their Promise? 

Over the last decade, Apple has done an amazing job in creating products that take the most complicated of technology and deliver it so that anyone can use it.  Apple takes the technology out of technology so we can all benefit.  That’s right–“so we can all benefit”.  Apple is now a brand owned by the Masses.  Yes, the masses rely on the innovators for advice, but Apple caters as much to my 70-something mother (iPad owner) as it does to my 14-year old daughter (iPhone user).  

There are 4 instances in the past 18 months where Apple has gotten off track:  

  1. Apple Maps were a disaster in more ways than one.  The first week of iPhone 5 owners was largely filled with the most loyal Apple users, the innovators who will influence the rest of us.  And the maps disaster was the first major flaw of the post-jobs era that people were waiting for.   
  2. Siri remains a disaster.  Siri does not deliver the promise as it adds frustration, not solves it.  Siri is a nice little toy that combined with Apple’s auto-correct takes my enunciation and turns into words I’ve never dreamed of saying.  I end up having to re-type the mistakes of Siri, which defeats the whole purpose behind voice recognition.  If these were brakes on a car, it would be re-called for the safety of society.  It’s unlike Apple to release such a bad product.   
  3. Retina Display is not a mass play.  The launch of iPad 3 feels odd..  They kept the iPad 2 out in the market and didn’t even put the #3 on the iPad 3.    It feels like something the niche Apple brand would have done, but now that you are a mass brand, you must cater to your consumer.  
  4. Apple TV has done nothing really.  While a few friends have it, I hear no one talking about it.  A quiet Fizzle.  

USP 2.0

Strategically, these 4 innovations were some of the big plays by Apple in the past 18 months.  And where do they fall on the test of uniqueness?  The Maps puts you in the losing zone where you are competing with Google Maps in the zone where they kick your ass.  Retina Display ends up being a niche play for photographers or fussy consumers, but for the rest of us it is in the “who cares”, certainly not worth an extra $150 compared to the iPad 2.  And Siri is not on the map, because it’s just an under-delivery that while it’s an innovation that leads the consumer, it only ends up frustrating them even more.   

Problem #2:  Is Apple Still Making a Dent in the Universe?

What caused Apple to rise so fast during the first decade of the century was innovation–the iPod followed by iTunes, the iMac vs the PC, the iPhone and then the iPad revolutionized the way we interact socially.   In many cases, Apps have replaced software.   Wow, Wow and Wow!!!

Slide1

But, the last 15 months has been a period of incrementalism.  In 2012, we saw iPad 3, iPhone 5 and iPad Mini and the fear among investors is that 2013 might be iPad 4, iPhone 6 and iPad Mini 2.  Slightly better, slightly lighter, but just as expensive.  There becomes less and less of a reason to trade up.  And sadly, at risk, less and less of a reason to love the brand.  Technology is about leap-frog.  And the world will not stand still in the next year.  Brands like Google and Samsung are ready to leap.  

Steve Jobs always talked about “Making a dent in the Universe” and people bought in and followed. Apple’s beauty has always been to give us what we never imagined.  And yet, now we are starting to not only imagine it, but predict it.  Everyone saw the iPad Mini coming.  In fact, we asked for it and Apple merely succumbed to our request.  Technology is supposed to surprise us with advances that not only meet our needs but cater to the needs we didn’t even know we had.  Apple has to get that back.  

Is Apple still making a dent in the Universe?  

Problem #3:  Apple must quiet the “Anti” Apple Segment

Haters are always going to hate.  In the technology space, the innovators and early adopters are those who tell the rest of us what to think and do.  These consumers are constantly looking for the “technology fraud” and it feels as though some are starting to call Apple on it.  The Samsung advertising has capitalized on this insight, openly mocking the iPhone5 launch.  The only way Apple can shut this down is with action on the technology front.  If Apple’s next product is the iPad Mini with Retina display or  the iPad4 comes with a better battery life than this group will become even more outspoken.

There are so many parodies of Apple being shared by millions that not only mock the technique of the advertising but the incrementalism of their technology.  This only fuels the haters.  

Problem #4:  Leadership Style

When Tim Cook took on the Apple brand, people worried but became re-assured that he had been running the Apple brand fora  while.  The brand was on a high after an amazing decade under Steve Jobs, and as a leader he faced a “sustaining success” leadership challenge.  Keep the momentum going.  Can anyone re-live that visionary relentless pursuit of perfection that Jobs brought to the role.  

Now it appears that Cook faces a “re-alignment” challenge.  Cook needs to re-invigorate the R&D at Apple to push for innovation that goes beyond expectations.  Making a dent in the Universe means pushing for greatness, not settling for OK incremental-ism.  Cook has quickly fired all those connected to the Maps fiasco.  But, he has to look at himself in the mirror for wondering how it got out past him.  The pressure is definitely on.   The questions of 18 months ago are back:  

Can Tim Cook do it?   
The World and the stock market are watching Apple.

HAVE YOUR SAY:  A year from now:  do you think Apple’s stock price will be higher or lower than $500?

To read How to Create and Run a Beloved Brand, read the following presentation:

 

Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:  Brand Leadership Learning Center

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If you or team has any interest in a training program, please contact me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth.  To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1 or join us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BrandLeadership

Ten Resolutions for Brand Leaders in 2013

brand-leader1Happy New Year!!!   

As we approach the new year, it’s a great time to come back fresh from the break and challenge yourself to get better.  In the words of T.S.  Eliot:  “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice”.

#1:  Take a Walk in Your Consumers Shoes.  See the brand as they do.  It’s not just about doing research and finding consumer insights.  It’s about experiencing the brand as your consumer does.  Bringing the consumer into everything you do tightening the connection.   Consumers do not care what you do, until you care about what they want.  In 2013, be the spokesperson who represents the consumer to your team and watch the work get better.  When doing TV ads or digital ads, realize that the consumer now sees 5,000+ brand messages per day:  Would this capture their attention, would they get it and would they do anything with it?  Read the following article that puts the consumer front and center in what we do: Everything Starts and Ends with the Consumer

#2:  Ask Bigger Questions, Get Bigger Answers.  As a senior Brand Leader, it is easy to get so wrapped up in the details of the execution that you’re making the non-strategic decisions on behalf of the team.   You have just really become the “senior” Senior Brand Manager that really annoys your team.   Instead of providing the team with a vision, challenging on strategy or teaching the team, you’re telling them to make the flash bigger and change the sell sheet to purple.  Instead of telling people what to do, why not challenge yourself to sit back slightly and ask the really tough challenging questions.  You’ll know you’ve asked a really tough question when you don’t even know the answer.   To figure out the best questions, read:  Ask Bigger Questions, Get Bigger Answers

#3: Create More Love for your Brand and you’ll drive More Power and Profits for your Brand.   Brand Leaders are too logical for their own good.  So much so that it’s holding their brand back from being great.  To create more love for your brand, there are 5 sources of connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including the brand promise, the strategic choices you make, the brand’s ability to tell their story, the freshness of the product or service and the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you.  Once you have the connection with your consumers, use that power with retailers, media, competitors and even the very consumers that love you.  With added power, you’ll be able to drive bigger profits, with inelastic price, more efficiency in costs and consumers will follow your brand with every new product launch or category you enter.  Realize the magic formula and find more growth for your brand in 2013:  Love = Power = Growth = Profit.  To read more about this, follow this link:  Brand Love = Power = Profit

#4:  Focusing makes your Brand Bigger.  Lack of focus makes it Smaller.   I still see Brand Leaders struggling to focus.   They want as broad of a selling target they can find so they can speak to everyone, yet in reality they speak with no one.  They want so many messages, mainly because they don’t know what the consumer wants, so they just say everything they can think of.   And they choose every media option because they don’t even know where they are, so they try to be everywhere.  When you don’t make a choice, you don’t make a decision.   Great marketers make choices–they use the word “or” instead of “and”.   They apply their limited resources against the biggest potential win–with a focused target, focused message and focused medium to shout it in.  They look bigger than they are to those who are the most motivated to already buy.  To challenge yourself to focus, read:  Brand Focus Makes You Bigger

#5:  At every turn, ask yourself “DO I LOVE IT?”    Reject all work that is “just ok” because OK is the enemy of Great.  Moving your brand from indifferent to Like It is relatively easy:  good product, smart investment and doing the basics right.  But moving from “Like It” to “Love It” can be a herculean task.  If you want your consumer to love your brand, you have to love the work you do.  Look at the love Apple projects to its consumers through the magic of design, branding and marketing.  Never let something out that’s “just ok”.  If you’re indifferent, then you’re brand will be as well.   Challenge yourself in 2013 to lead yourself with passion equal to logic and find a way to love the work you do.  Read the following article at:  Reject OK because OK is the Enemy of Greatness

#6:  Find Your Point of Difference by Being Different.   Brand Leaders always try to find that nugget as their point of difference.   They get so logical and then try to make it a big deal in the consumers mind, even though many times the consumer does not care.  And yet, these same Brand Leaders play it so safe that their work looks and feels just like everyone else.  In 2013, push yourself to be different in your execution.  If the consumer sees 5,000 brand messages a day, they’ll only be attracted to something they’ve never seen before.  All the ‘me-too’ messages will be lost in a sea of sameness.  Whether it is new products, a new advertising campaign or media options push yourself to do something that stands out.   Don’t just settle for ok.  Always push for great.  If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?  The opposite of different, is indifferent and who wants to be indifferent.   Read the following link:  The Art of Being Different

#7:  Care More about the Careers of Your People:  The best way to connect with your team is to care about their careers.   If you are authentic i how you approach their development, they’ll do listen to your advice, follow your lead and give more effort than ever.  If they feel they are getting the training and development needed, they’ll likely stay longer with your company.   If they have added skills and motivation, their performance will be even better and if the work gets better, then the results will be better.  For you the equation is simple:  The better the people, the better the work and in turn the better the results.   To read more on how to help with their careers, read the following link:  Managing Your Marketing Career (Free Download)

#8:  Create a Culture around your Brand—Brand should be everyone’s job, not just marketing.  There are hundreds and sometimes thousands of people impacted by the vision, mission and values you set out for the brand.   While most people will think the Brand Manager leads the brand, it’s the collective wisdom of all those who touch it.   From Sales People negotiating on the brands behalf to HR people who pick the right people to various Agencies, right down to the Editor who works just one day on your brand.  Motivate them, embrace them, challenge them, lead them, follow them and reward them.   Great people make great work and great work leads to great brands.   In 2013, challenge yourself to realize that you need more than just you living the brand, you need everyone living and breathing it.  The best case study on how to drive the brand right into the culture is Ritz Carlton: Ritz Carlton

#9 :  Be a Better Client and Get Better Work:  I get asked a lot:  “So what is it that makes someone good at advertising?”.  I always think people are looking for some type of magical answer, but the answer I give is always very simple yet if you think about it very complex:  “They can consistently get good advertising on the air and keep bad advertising off the air”.  It all starts with being a better client thought.  As David Ogilvy said “Clients get the work they deserve”.   If you are your agency’s best client, you are much more likely to get the best of their work.  To get better, read an article on the Worst Type of Clients

#10:  Be a Better Brand Leader.  Be more Consumer focused and live as though Everything Starts and Ends With the Consumer in Mind.  That’s why you got into this business isn’t it?  Follow Your Instincts and use the gut feel of Marketing.   If you have more fun, so to will the consumer.  Revel in Ambiguity and be more patient with Ideas.   It’s ok not to know for a little bit because that’s when the best answers come to the surface.  Actively Listen and  use more questions than answers.  Focus on the People and the Results will come.  Here is an article for you:  Eight Brand Leader Behaviors

I really hope you try one of these out in 2013.   And I hope you see the difference.  

Here’s to a Great Year in 2013!

To find ways to make your brand more loved, read the following presentation:

grAbout Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

You can always reach me by email at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  Click on any of the topics below that might interest you:

2012: The Worst in Brand Marketing for the Year

2012 Wasn’t the Best Year For Branding

As we approach the year-end, I look optimistically forward to Lucky #13.  I’m hopeful that 2013 will be a much better year in branding than 2012 was.   While the economy was in a relative stand still, I think marketers also were.   Do we still believe that great marketing can help drive an economy into recovery or do marketers just sit in fear, choosing the safest options they can find?  All year, social marketers battled with traditional marketers.   It is such a silly debate and I hope it ends some time soon.  The only real separation I see is that some brands are figuring it out, while others looked pretty stupid not even trying.   Some media are figuring it out as well, but others are still struggling on how to make money from their services.  I was going to do “The Best and Worst” but in 2012, it just feels too easy to do the worst.

Facebook IPO damaged the Brand Reputation:  

The first 4 months of the 2012 were filled with stories about how amazing and invincible Facebook was, with estimated valuation going from $20 Billion to $50 Billion all the way up to $100 Billion.  2012 badEveryone was in awe and Zuckerberg was pure Genius.  But once Facebook went public, they learned the hard lesson about privacy.  Pretty soon, it because obvious that Facebook was struggling with how to monetize the billion members they had collected.  The invincible brand was quickly tarnished and the stock price tumbled from $40 down to $15.  For traditional Brand Leaders, this didn’t help the cause of Social Media.

A Year of Gaffes on Social Media

The worst tweet of the year belonged to Kitchen Aid who made an awful tweet during the US Presidential Elections.   First, brands should never express their political views.   And beyond that, the tweet was in extremely bad taste.   Importantly, it does remind us that social media is the wild-west of marketing and has to be monitored closely.

2012 bad

McDonald’s innocently enough created a hashtag on twitter called #McDstories which quickly turned nasty with consumers just giving it to McDonald’s.  Again, quick monitoring and deleting bad stories could have been helpful.

2012 bad2

Pizza Hut posted an online video inviting the participants at the Town Hall Presidential Debate to ask the candidates whether they preferred sausage or pepperoni.  The idea was a little too cute for the mainstream media who were in  the midst of the serious debates and the pretty much roasted Pizza Hut hourly for days.

Please stop with the “Like Us on Facebook”

Alright, enough already.   Getting someone to like you on Facebook doesn’t seem very hard.  Almost as hard as getting someone to endorse you on Linked In.  I’d like that stopped as well.  This year, I was out on a nice country drive with my wife and drove past a Rock Quarry that had a sign “Like Us on Facebook”.   Given the limited advertising budget of a Rock Quarry, they have one chance to communicate with me and that’s what they chose.  How about “Rocks, $10 a pound”.   Let’s hope the “Like Us on Facebook” dies soon.

Hotels Charging for Internet

Most of us likely pay between $25 and $60 per month for your internet services, depending on your location or bandwidth choices.   We can get free WiFi in every Starbucks, McDonald’s and  any coffee shop.  Yet, 2012 was the growing trend of Hotels starting to rip off consumers for Internet usage.  Most recently, on a trip to NYC, they wanted to charge me $17 per day, per device.  i figured, we’d just use the lobby.  That would cost $7 per hour.   This is pure gouging of the consumer stuck away from home.  I’m hoping one of the big chains sees a slight window where they can do what Starbucks did for WiFi.   I encourage everyone who finds this hotel policy disgusting to complain to their hotel or go on their Twitter and register a complaint.    In fact, I’m starting to hear of cities contemplating making their entire city “Free WiFi” as a competitive advantage.   What everyone is learning is the internet has to be free and it’s expected to be free.  This is a scam that I hope stops in 2013.

Blackberry’s Arrogance in Management

About 24 months ago, Blackberry was a relatively hot brand.  2012 badIt was the choice of the business world.  People talked so much about being addicted to their blackberry that the term “crackberry” was a running gag.  It seems every teenager was BBM’ing  And they had just announced the launch of the Playbook, which loyal Blackberry users were looking forward to seeing.   The problem for Blackberry was poor product quality–crappy browser, phone, camera, keyboards and battery.  Anyone who tried an iPhone or Android quickly switched and Blackberry’s market share dwindled and the stock price crumbled from $120 down to $10.   It was the arrogance of management behind Jim Balsillie and Mike Laziridis, who could no longer get along and who were both tossed from the company in 2012.

Apple Had a Mixed Year

Apple is the latest Beloved Brand that can do no wrong…that started to show some cracks over the past six months.   It’s a classic case of making sure you measure the Brand Wealth and Health.   2012 badWhile the sales are still exceptionally strong and the stock price is extremely high, there were a few flaws this year that could be signs that people in the post-Jobs era are waiting for.   The iPad3 wasn’t much of a difference for the average consumer to get excited behind.   The iPhone5 while very strong didn’t really meet sales forecasts.   And then there was the maps fiasco, which had many loyalists claiming “That would not have happened under Steve Jobs”.   The good news for those loyalists is Tim Cook fired a bunch of the people responsible for the Maps fiasco, demonstrating that he’s not as tolerant for errors as they were proclaiming.  The launch of iPad Mini was a nice tease for many consumers (myself included) but a few of the loyalists are also a bit skeptical, especially as it runs counter to what Jobs wanted.   The Apple stock price started the year at $400, jumped quickly to $600+ in the spring and fell back down to $515 where it sits currently.   All in all, a mixed year for Apple.  Twelve months ago, we optimistically said “what’s next for Apple” which twelve months later, we’re still saying “what’s next for Apple” but with a bit more frustration than optimism.  I’m hopeful that it’s more than just iPhone 6, iPad 4, iPod Mini 2 or iPod 11.03.  I thought Apple thought incrementalism sucked.

Obama vs Romney was a bit Blah

Forget the politics, candidates, policies for a minute.   The marketing of the two candidates took a step back.  No creativity came from social media.   It was back to the future 1980s style campaigning with endless TV ads slamming each other.  2012 badThere was no “Obama” girl, no great speeches, tag lines and the debates lacked any “you’re no Jack Kennedy” lines.  As a marketer, sometimes we look for these campaigns to use all that money to come up with something truly breakthrough that the rest of us marketers can learn from.  It also seems that the Tea Party and Occupy movements have both lost their steam.   Maybe in 2016, we’ll have Clinton vs Bush (Hillary vs Jeb) that will make it seem really back to the future.

The National Hockey League

For the second time in five years, the NHL has a lock out of the players.  Debate all you want as to whether you side with the Billionaires of the Millionaires, this is really no way to grow a brand that needs growing.   In Canada, Hockey will always be #1.  But in the coveted US market, Hockey remains on the outside looking in.   Hockey trails the NFL, MLB, NBA, NASCAR, College Football, College Basketball and even the UFC.    If you don’t have snow, you haven’t really missed that the NHL is even on a work stoppage.  Everyone always says “it’s the fans who are getting hurt”.  No, it’s not.  It’s the brand.  When you are trying to grow a brand, it takes investment and commitment to building a relationship with your customers.  Putting excessive detail on the cost line is not the way to grow.  On top of that, the lockout comes down to one very simple premise:  we want to put rules in place that will get the owners to stop paying the players so much money.   Can’t they just do that, without the rules.

Here’s to a Great Year in 2013!

 

To find ways to make your brand more loved, read the following presentation:

 

grAbout Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

You can always reach me by email at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  Click on any of the topics below that might interest you:

How to ask Big Questions that get to Big Strategic Answers

Slide1In our marketing careers, we start off in a doing-role and get completely swamped in execution.   We think “if only I had a higher level job, I’d actually have time to think, rather than just do”.   The problem for many of us, is not only do we get good at the doing, we get so good that we can’t get past it and we never end getting to the real strategic thinking.  We just become a do-er at a higher level and drive everyone crazy beneath us.

When I talk to many of the senior Brand Leaders, at the VP and Director level, I hear 3 common things:

  1. “I am too busy and I have no time for strategic thinking”
  2. “My team lacks the experience so I have to jump in resolve issues myself”
  3. “If I didn’t jump in, it just wouldn’t get done right”
Are you really Strategic?

Everyone out there claims to be a strategic thinker, but I would guess that really only half of us really are strategic.

  • Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions.  They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out.  They reflect and plan before they act.   They are thinkers and planning who can see connections.   This is PLANNING!
  • Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions.   They get to answers quickly, and will get frustrated in the delays of thinking.   They think doing something is better  then doing nothing.   They opt for action over thinking.    They are impulsive and doers who see tasks.  They are frustrated by strategic thinkers.  This is EXECUTING!

As a senior Brand Leader, it is easy to get so wrapped up in the details of the execution that you’re making the non-strategic decisions on behalf of the team.   You have just really become the “senior” Senior Brand Manager that really annoys your team.   Instead of providing the team with a vision, challenging on strategy or teaching the team, you’re telling them to make the flash bigger and change the sell sheet to purple.

If you speak in a telling voice, you leave your team with one answer:  YES.   If you speak in an asking voice you leave your team with 3 answers:  YES, NO or let me dig in a bit more and find out.  

Instead of telling people what to do, why not challenge yourself to sit back slightly and ask the really tough challenging questions.  You’ll know you’ve asked a really tough question when you don’t even know the answer.   There’s nothing wrong with stumping the team, because you’re even stumping yourself in the process.

So What are the Tough Questions to Ask?  

As your team might be at the beginning stage of digging in on analysis, here’s are 10 great questions to ask your team:

  1. How do we make money?   This focuses them on figuring out the pathway from the activities on the brand to the results in the market and the profitability on the balance sheets.   The most beloved brands use the consumer connection to create a source of power that they can use on various areas of the market and then use that power to drive the brand’s profitability.   Your team should be able to map this out and use it as a roadmap for the brand’s future.   If you’re not focused on power and profit, then you’re not strategic.  
  2. What is it that makes us different?  USP 2.0The best of brands are either better, different or cheaper.   Or not around for very long.   If you can’t answer this question, then how do you expect your consumer to be able to answer.   You’re likely just a me-too brand and once that’s discovered, you’ll be on a downward spiral.   
  3. Why are we here?  How did we get here?  Where could we be?    It’s great for getting to the vision, without writing the word “vision” up on the board and saying to everyone “ok go”.  That gets you no-where.   Pick a magical date of 5-10 years from now and say “if you got everything you wanted, what would the brand look like in 5 years?”  Push them hard on the where to, because that’s when the brand starts to transform itself.  
  4. What’s holding us back from being where we want to be?   Once you get the team focused on the vision of 5 to 10 years from now.  This allows you to start attacking your brand, to find the inhibitors that you can try to unleash or course correct.  
  5. Which would be easier:   getting our most loyal users to use more, moving up those who have already bought into the brand to start using regularly or getting a new user?    This is pushing them towards a strategic choice, whether to focus on base users or new users–penetration or usage frequency.  It also should start to force you to look at your brand funnel to see where you have strength and where you have gaps.   Every brand should be utilizing a brand funnel.   It’s almost negligent to not use one.   Slide1That’s like working out at the gym and not knowing your blood pressure or cholesterol scores.  When you layer in What would make us more Money, you might start to see the ROI impact of the same decision.  
  6. What would our consumer say about our brand?  This shifts the focus of the discussion from a myopic brand focus into thinking about the consumer first.   Everything you do should be start and end with the consumer in mind.  After all, if you figure out how to win over the consumer, you become more powerfully connected and can drive greater growth and profits through that power   
  7. For Strategy, what choices are on the table that helps you gain a foothold into the market but also helps to drive the long-term win? A test for any great strategy is whether it has all 4 key elements.   FOCUS:  all your energy to a particular strategic point or purpose.  Match up your brand assets to pressure points you can break through, maximizing your limited resources—either financial resources or effort.   Pick a tight target market of those who can love you, and pick a unique position that you can stand behind and win.   You want that EARLY WIN, to kick-start of some momentum. Early Wins are about slicing off parts of the business or population where you can build further. Find that connection with your consumer—moving them along the love curve.  LEVERAGE everything to gain positional advantage or power that helps exert even greater pressure and gains the tipping point of the business that helps lead to something bigger.  Your brand finds a way to turn the consumer connectivity into a source of power the brand can leverage.Seeing beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, which is the entrance or a means of access to something even bigger.   It could be getting to the masses, changing opinions or behaviours.  Return on Investment or Effort, where you can translate all the power you’ve earned into profits and brand value.
  8. For any choice related to brand positioning and go-to-market, whether it’s target market, main message, media choices or activities, force their hand by asking a few questions to ask:  1) which one gets us on our way to vision faster?    2) which one helps us grow faster  3) which one makes us more money?   Always push your team to focus by making them use the word “or” instead of “and”. If you think you are a strategic decision maker, then whenever you choose both, you’ve failed.   When you go into a casino, and put one chip on each of the 38 choices on the roulette wheel, it might be fun, but you’ll never win.    By targeting everyone then you’re not making the choice, you’re just depleting your resources.   And you run the risk that no consumer ever says “wow, that brand is really speaking to me.”
  9. When seeing new creative execution of anything, ask “DO YOU LOVE IT?” and then watch their eyes.  Do you think our costumer will love it?  Is this connected to personal pride or are they just passing the buck filling in forms.  not okGetting something to market, big or small takes a herculean effort to overcome obstacles.   I want to know on day 1, will they fight for it?   A great idea that falls on the vine is worth less than an OK idea executed with passion.  If we don’t love the work we do, then how do we expect the consumer to love the brand?    OK is the enemy of greatness.  
  10. Why do you want to spend this money?    If you are about to spend millions of dollars, I want to hear the reason why you think it’s crucial, why it will pay back even greater than the resources we put forward.   Understanding and aligning to one key objective allows everyone to focus on the outcome.   

And finally, the most important question of all:  What do your instincts think we should do?   And then listen.  You might be surprised by the good thinking on your team and you might be surprised that their answer is better than the one that is in your head.  

This might be most obvious of questions, but how many times per week do you ask this?   Imagine the responses you might get from that.  Imagine how motivated your team would be.  As a leader, I want you to start exhibiting more patience.  You have to learn the art of questioning that sets up the listening.  If you learn this skill you’ll start to realize that you can still control the direction of the brand through questions, even more than through direction.  On the plus side, you’ll have a fully engaged, motivated team that’s ready to deliver.

As a Brand Leader at the executive level, you should walk into every meeting telling yourself “I know less about this than anyone in the room” and that puts you in the most powerful position to ask the right strategic questions and listen for the right strategic answers.

The bigger the question, the bigger the answer.

To help improve your strategic thinking, read the following presentation:

If you or team has any interest in a training program, please contact me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

grAbout Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  Click on any of the topics below:

Five Best Sports Ads of 2012

Slide1Given it was an Olympic year, it was a good chance for brands to leverage the games to stand out.  But my favorite ad was not about what an athlete was doing on the court but what he was going through off the court.  The injury to Derrick Rose was a dramatic turn in the sports world and the story telling that Adidas did around the injury was brilliant.

#1 Derrick Rose Adidas

This is my favorite sports-related TV ad, because of the drama that is created through the spot–whether it’s the freeze once he gets injured or the rhythm created from him working out.

 

Adidas did a great job taking the idea on-line, and turning the story of Derrick Rose’s return into a series of 3-minute videos that show the behind-the-scenes look at his return effort.  It’s supported on twitter with #thereturn where fans continue to comment as we anticipate his return shortly.

#2 Nike “Find Your Greatness” at the Olympics

Even though, they were not a sponsor of the Olympics, Nike managed to steal the spotlight and stand out with this TV ad.  While everyone else was talking about the super stars of the games, Nike reached down their roots of the average athlete.   I love the kid on the diving board at the end of the spot.

#3 P&G Moms Campaign

I thought P&G did a very nice job at the Olympics, the one sponsor that seemed to jump out.  (Nike was never a sponsor)  There were two takes that I liked, the first was “Thank You Moms” which showed everything that moms did for their athletes.   I’m sure quite a few moms were shedding a few tears over this one.

The second P&G ad spoke to the idea that “they’ll always be kids” and it showed the athletes depicted as little children.

#4 Ray Lewis Visa

Ray Lewis is one of the toughest football players, and I love how they’ve warmed him up by having the little kid ask cute questions.

#5 National Lottery in the UK

Very warm and telling spot about sending your daughter to the Olympics.  It’s a nice drama and beautifully shot TV ad.

What’s the best Sports ad you’ve seen this year?

If you are in the mood to see other great advertising, here’s a few other stories:

 

To see a training presentation on getting better Advertising: 

 

If you or team has any interest in a training program, please contact me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

 

grAbout Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  Click on any of the topics below:

The Top 10 worst types of Advertising clients. Don’t be one of these?

Slide1The best clients respect the process, the agency and their own judgment.  And yet, most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting to great creative.  As a Brand Leader, if you knew that showing up better would get you better advertising, do you think you could?  Or are you stuck being one of these types of Clients?

I come at this from the vantage of a fellow client.  I’m not an Ad Agency guy, never having worked a day at an agency in my life.  But I’ve seen all these types of clients.  I’d like you to laugh a little and think “hey I know that guy”.  But I’d also like if you see a little of yourself in a few of these and if you’re into personal growth and improvement, challenge yourself to get better and stop being that guy.

I get asked a lot:  “So what is it that makes someone good at advertising?”.  I always think people are looking for some type of magical answer, but the answer I give is always very simple yet if you think about it very complex:  “They can consistently get good advertising on the air and keep bad advertising off the air”.

Most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting great creative.  If there are 100 steps in every advertising development stage and you show up OK at each step, how are you possibly thinking you’ll end up with a GREAT ad at the end?  Did you ensure that your team has a very tight creative brief that’s based on insights and instincts?  Were you fully engaged and motivating to everyone that touches the brand?   Were you a proactive decision maker who provided necessary challenge and direction in the spirit of making the work better?   Did you push it up and through the system and gain approval from management?

Here are the 10 Worst Types of Clients
#1: “You’re The Expert”: 

While intended to be a compliment to the Agency, it’s a total cop-out!  You really just give the agency enough rope to hang themselves.  As a Brand Leader, you play a major role in the process.  You have to be engaged in every stage of the process and in the work.  Bring your knowledge of the brand, make clear decisions and steer the work towards greatness.  

#2:  “I never Liked the Brief”:

 These passive-aggressive clients are usually insecure about their own abilities in the advertising space.  They keep firing their agency instead of taking ownership, because it’s easier to fire the agency than fire yourself.  A great Brand Leader never approves work they don’t love.  If you don’t love the work, then how do you expect the consumer to love your brand?

#3:  Jekyll & Hyde:

When Brand Leaders bring major mood swings to the Ad process, it’s very hard for the agency. The worst thing that could happen is when your mood swing alters the work and you end up going into a direction you never intended to go.  Brand Leaders have to stay consistent so that everyone knows exactly who they are dealing with.   

#4:  The Constant “Bad Mood”:

 I’ve seen clients bring the death stare to creative meetings where hilarious scripts are presented to a room of fear and utter silence.  Brand Leader must motivate all those who touch their brand.  Be the favorite client that people want to work for. Advertising should be fun.  If you are having fun, then so will your consumer.

#5:  The Mystery Man that’s Not in the Room:

When the real decision maker is not in the room, everyone guesses what might please that decision maker.   As a Brand Leader, you have to make decisions that you think are the right thing, not what your boss might say.  Make the ad you want and then find a way to gain alignment and approval from your boss.

#6:  The dictator:

Revel in ambiguity and enjoy the Unknown.   Great ads ‘make the brand feel different’.  If we knew the answer, it wouldn’t be different, would it?  If a Brand Leader comes in with the exact ad, then it’s not really a creative process, it just becomes an order taking process.  When you TELL the agency what to do, there is only one answer:  YES.  But when you ASK they agency, then there two answers:  YES and NO.

#7:  The Mandatories:  

Clients who put 5-10 Mandatories on the brief forces the agency to figure out your needs instead of the advertising problem.  You end up with a Frankenstein.  My challenge to Brand Leaders is if you write a very good brief, you don’t need a list of Mandatories.

#8:  The Kitchen Sink.

The “just in case” clients who want to speak to everyone with everything they can possibly say.  If you put everything in your ad, you just force the consumer to make the decision on what’s most important.  When you try to speak to everyone, you end up speaking to no one.   

#9: Keeps Changing Their Mind:

Advertising is best when driven by a sound process.   It’s creativity within a box.  And if the box keeps changing, you’ll never see the best creative work.

#10:  The Scientist:

Some clients think THERE IS AN ANSWER.  And the world of SEO and Digital seems to be encouraging this mindset more than ever.   Where you might see precision, I see navel gazing.  Be careful of navel gazing analytics. You might miss blue-sky big picture or the freight train about to run you over.  As a Brand Leader, you can’t always get THE answer.   Too much in marketing eliminates risk, rather than encourages risk taking.  That only helps you sleep better, but you’ll dream less.

You likely have the best intentions for your business.   And you likely believe that having a good relationship with the agency is crucial and you work at it.  But if you suffer from any of these, you might be holding back your contributions into the process.  

Here’s a presentation on How to Be a Better Client

Slide1

Do you want to be an amazing Brand Leader?  We can help you.  

Read more on how to utilize our Brand Leadership Learning Center where you will receive training in all aspects of marketing whether that’s strategic thinking, brand plans, creative briefs, brand positioning, analytical skills or how to judge advertising.  We can customize a program that is right for you or your team.  We can work in person, over the phone or through Skype.  Ask us how we can help you. 

 

 

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

Ask Beloved Brands to run a workshop to find better advertising or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

Brand Focus: Great Marketers use the word “or” more than “and”

Strategy is all about Choices

“It’s all about choices” is how my marketing professor started every class.  He’d repeat it about 8-10 more times each class, sometimes after someone made a choice and sometimes after someone didn’t.  I still see a fear among many marketers to make choices–whether it’s a target market, brand positioning or strategies or the allocation of spend.  Good decision-making starts with forcing yourself to use the word “or” instead of keep using the word “and”.  

The most important element of Marketing Strategy is the exact area where most Marketers struggle:  FOCUS!

Why should you focus?
  • Every brand is constrained by resources—dollars, people and time.  Focus makes you matter most to those who actually might care.  Focusing your limited resources on those consumers with the highest propensity to buy what you are selling will deliver the greatest movement towards sales and the highest return on investment for those resources.  I was leading a session on a Tourism Region and asked who the key targets were.  The first answer was pretty good–it was some of the regions that were within close proximity.  Then people around the room kept saying “well, what about…” and “we can’t forget…” and “we don’t want to alienate…”   And the President says in serious tone:  “we target everyone, because it could be anyone really”.
  • In a competitive category, no one brand can do it all.  Focus makes you decide whether to be better, different or cheaper.  Giving the consumer too many messages about your brand will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique.  Trying to be everything is the recipe for being nothing.   I was lucky that my first marketing job at General Mills was managing child cereals, where each quarter, I had to do a promotion on 5 different cereals.  So, twenty times per year, I had to work with the 2 x 2 inch corner of the cereal box and put a message that would make a 5-year-old scream at their Moms to buy the cereal.  That taught me a lot about focusing my messaging.
  • Trying to do everything spreads your resources and your message too thin, so that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”.   With a long to-do list, you’ll never do great at anything.   And in a crowded and fast economy, “ok” never breaks through so you’ll never get the early win to gain that tipping point that opens up the gateway to even bigger success.  I once had a director working for me, who kept spinning around never getting anything done.  His team was complaining that every time they started a new project, he’d come up with new ideas.  I sat down with him and asked him to bring his project list for the up-coming quarter.  He came in with 83 projects!!!  I said “how do we narrow this list down to five”.  He looked at me like I was insane.
When You Focus, Four Things Happen
  1. Better ROI:   With all the resources against one strategy, one target, one message, you’ll be find out if the strategy that you have chosen is able to actually moves consumers, drives sales or enhances other key performance indicators.  Did you actually get done what you wanted to get done?  If you spread those resources, you may never see any movement and then figure your strategy is wrong.
  2. Strong Reputation:  When you only do one thing, you naturally start to become associated with that one thing.  With consumers, you get the reputation as the “fast one” or the “great tasting”.   And internally, as people in the company start to align to your one thing, eventually you become very good at that one thing.   Look at Volvo with “safety”.  Every consumer message for 30 years is about safety.   And internally, everyone at Volvo is fixated on safety, coming out with new safety innovations ahead of everyone else.  Yes, Volvo’s have leather seats, go pretty fast, have a CD player and even come in multiple colours.  But they don’t feel the need to have to say it.
  3. More Competitive:  As your reputation grows, you begin to own that one thing and your are able to better defend the positioning territory.  As categories mature, brands start to stake claims and if you’ve got something that’s unique, relevant and motivating, you’ll be able to own it.
  4. Bigger and Better P&L:  As the focused effort drives results, it opens up the P&L with higher sales and profits.  With a better ROI, you get to go back to management and say “it worked” and they’ll say “ok, let’s increase the investment”.  And that means more resources will be put to the effort to drive even higher growth.  As you efficiently drive the top-line, the P&L opens up a bit and becomes easier for a brand leader to work with.
Where Your Focus Shows Up
  • Pick a focused Target Market:  While it’s tempting to sell to everyone.  Focus your resources on those most likely to buy. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focus on those that can love you.  Whether you are a niche player focused on guerilla tactics, or the number two player attacking the category leader having a focused target market is crucial. I see a difference between a “buying target” which is those consumers who currently buy the product naturally without your effort and a “strategic target” of those consumers who you want to get to act–whether it’s considering, purchasing or continuing to buy.   Rest assured that the buying target will not likely leave you because they aren’t in the strategic target–whether that’s in your TV ad or as part of your promotions.
  • Pick a focused Brand Positioning:  Start with the target market you just picked–and assess their need states to see where you can best match up.  Beloved Brands are either better, different or cheaper. Or they are not around for much longer.   There’s too much pressure to be a copy cat brand–your channel might be the first to reject you, but if not, the consumer surely will.  The winning zone is to match up what your consumer wants and what you do best.   Avoid taking your competitor on in the space that they are better than you or you’ll get your butt handed to you.  Where you are both trying to meet the needs of the consumer and are equal in performance, be careful that the leader may win, unless you can find ways to connect emotionally, be more innovative or find ways to provide superior execution.  But even then, this space is a risky place to play.
  • Pick a Focused Strategy:  Brands need to understand where they sit before picking strategies.  Evaluate the health of your brand using the Brand Funnel to understand where you are strong and should keep pushing or where you have a weakness (a Leak) that you need to close.  Where you sit competitively–whether you are the Leader, challenger or a niche player–impacts what competitive strategy you might choose.  I also promote the idea of the Brand Love Curve where the relationship between the consumer and brand move along a curve going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and onto a Beloved Brand for Life.  The farther along the curve, the tighter the connectivity, which means more brand power and a potential to drive growth and profits.  Where you are on the Brand Love Curve can help focus your strategic choices.   If your brand is Indifferent, you need to establish your brand in the mind of the consumer so they are aware and consider your brand.  If you’re stuck at the Like It stage, you need to separate yourself and drive the rational and emotional benefits into your consumers mind.  If you’ve made it the Love It stage, keep finding ways to tug at the heart of your consumers and find ways to build it into their daily life.  At the Beloved Brand stage, keep fuelling the magic to maintain the love.  Attack yourself before others attack you. Leverage all the power you’ve created to stay in the lead position
  • Focused Activities.  While everyone talks ROI, I talk ROE as well.  Return on Effort forces you to prioritize all your activities.  If you put all the proposed tactics and activities on a grid, plotting the ideas as Easy vs Difficult to and then Big Wins vs Small Wins, you want all your focus to be on the Big and Easy ideas.  If the ideas are Easy and Small then brainstorm ways to make them bigger.   If they are Big but Difficult then brainstorm ways to make them easier.  The Biggest Easiest ideas will drive a higher ROE and in turn a higher ROI.  It’s the point where you’ll see an impact for what you do.
Challenge Yourself to Focus

If I can challenge you in each of the areas.  Push yourself on the target to have a bulls-eye target of no more than 5 years.  Force yourself to have one “shout from the mountain” style main message supported by a maximum of two reasons to believe.  As you’re doing your brand plan, try to narrow it down to 3 key strategies and for each strategy a maximum of 3 tactics.  That leaves you taking your resources and spreading them across a maximum of 9 tactics in total.  Spend 75% of your resources against the top 3 tactics.  That’s much more focused than 5 strategies with 5 tactics per–which spreads your resources and efforts across 25 tactics in total.  None of these are hard and fast rules, just challenges to be more focused.  

Watch what happens when you start saying “or” and stop saying “and”.  After all, “It’s all about choices”.  

 

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  Click on any of the topics below:

To see the training presentations, visit the Beloved Brands Slideshare site at: http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations

If you or team has any interest in a training program, please contact me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

 

 

About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth.  To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

Does the Sacred Cash Cow Still Exist?

The Cash Cow has Become a Cash Drain.

When I was running the marketing department at J&J with 15 different brand P&Ls, for me to hit my numbers, I used a simplistic portfolio management rule I called “One-Third…One-Third…One-Third”, where I needed one-third of my brands to have a great year and over-deliver the sales target, I needed one-third to have a fair-to-good performance and hit their number because I knew that no matter what I did, there would be this ugly one-third that would struggle, fall off the rails and miss their number.   For this rule to work, I just needed the one-third that was doing great to be much better than the deficit from the one-third that was struggling.  

I was lucky to have a Cash Cow in the mix, which gave me the luxury of a large source of steady growth kicking out cash that I could re-invest in the high growth brands to ensure they did well.  That beautiful Cash Cow let me sleep at night, I’d hit my year-end numbers and get that sweet bonus cheque at the end of the year.  The problem in today’s economy is the Cash Cow has been neglected to the point where that once-beautiful Cash Cow is now in the bottom One-Third and has now become a drain on the overall P&L.  What was once the big saviour has now become a big problem.  

Using the Boston Consulting Group Matrix, the definition of a Cash Cow is a high market share in a slower growth category.   These brands generate more cash in the bottom line than they need to maintain the business.    Sometimes marketers view these brands as boring because they have no fancy advertising or sexy investment programs.  But in terms of running a portfolio, every company wants some strong cash cows.  These brands are to be “milked” continuously with as little investment as possible since that investment would be seen as wasteful.  Instead, the profits it kicks out should be re-invested in the Stars where there is a known pathway to growth or even the question marks where there is potential opportunity to gain a higher market share within the high growth category.

The Problems with Cash Cows

These Cash Cow Brands, once sitting comfortably at the Like It stage have begun to fall back to the Indifferent stage.  Most Cash Cows have been milked for too long without any investment that they now face neglect.  They’ve lost the connection they once had with their consumers.  In fact, if they’ve been milked for 10-15 years, they’ve completely missed out on connecting with an entire new generation of consumers.  The Cash Cow sits on the shelf, looking old, tired and out of date.  There’s been no messaging to the consumer which reduces their overall unaided awareness levels and might not even be in the consideration set.  Minimal investment in R&D has seen missed opportunities for new formats or product advancements to keep ahead of the competition.  It’s likely that other brands have caught up or surpassed the cash cow on quality which then throws the value equation into question for the Cash Cow.

In the retail channels, these Cash Cows have faced attack on all fronts.  In these Cash Cow categories Private Label have gained as much as a 20-30% share.  Because the Cash Cow didn’t want to invest in the Above the Line marketing programs like Advertising or Innovation, they’ve compensated by increasing the trade spend.  For these Cash Cows, the percent sold on deal has steadily increased–going from 20-30% when operating as a true cash cow up to 40-70%.

Competitors have taken note of the Cash Cow and then look for the opportunistic kill.  They can see your lack of investment, they have also noticed some untapped or missed opportunities in the marketplace.  Competitors have attacked in four ways:

  1. New Entrants Going after younger targets who think of the Cash Cow as their Mom’s brand.   This leaves the Cash Cow defenceless, unable to connect with these new consumers making the brand look irrelevant, worn out and just plain old.
  2. Competitors push the Innovation on new formats, which they leverage to generate a slight premium, helping to take a category that is flat on units and adds some dollar growth.  Even if it’s a short-term win, they now have a new share position they can try to straight-line.
  3. Brands try to take on the value positioning between the Cash Cow and Private Label.  Where the Cash Cow tries to take a premium price position, it open ups the opportunity for these brands to reduce their price mid-way between Private Label and the Cash Cow.  They focus their innovation on the   cost line with off-shore or third-party production, lower ingredient costs or reductions in packaging or even shipping.  The Cash Cow is slow to react to the price threat, not wanting to cut into the premium price position they occupy or the give up the profit model that has worked to spin out the cash.  Don’t you just hate when someone cuts the price on your Cash Cow!!!
  4. Some Brands Eliminate Distribution all-together, going towards a Direct to Consumer model–either through direct response media options or shipping through the internet.  This catches the Cash Cow by surprise, because the data isn’t showing up the share reports.  These become the competitors that you can’t see.  It also confuses the Cash Cow because they are stuck with their distribution as their life-line, unable to try new distribution techniques for fear of retribution from retail partners.
The Cash Cow P&L is no longer working.  

A brand can mainly leverage 4 main areas on the P&L to drive profits:  price, costs, market share or the market size.  And with the current Cash Cows in free-fall, all 4 are moving in the wrong direction.  What once was a beautiful P&L is no longer working for the Cash Cow.

  • Falling Prices:  The Cash Cow has had to fight off private label expansion and the advent of Value Brands.  Without any advertising, product innovation or promotional program dollars, these Cash Cows tried for years to avoid touching the price line.  But with three major recessions in twelve years, these Cash Cows have been forced into slashing their price just to maintain their share lead, even as it continues to shrink.
  • Declining Share:  With the increase in Private Label over the last 20 years, the Cash Cow has likely lost 20-30% of their share to private label.  The most vulnerable categories for Private Label are the slower moving categories that the Cash Cow is supposed to compete in.  With little innovation, the store brands have been able to easily copy the brand leaders.  On top of that, value brands have neatly found a way to occupy a position between private label and the Cash Cow.
  • Uncompetitive Costs:  Two major cost problems.   First, the Cash Cow has seen cost per unit creeping up.  While they always had the cost advantage due to their economies of scale, the shrinking volumes against the same production footprint means lower productivity and higher costs per unit.   Second, trade spending has increased as these Cash Cows buckle to the pressure from distribution.  They no longer have the power to command strong programs, shelf space or premium pricing.   They need to be on deal all the time in order to sell.
  • Shrinking Category:  As the category share leader, the lack of investment by the Cash Cow puts the category into sleep mode and the declines accelerate.
Avoid Letting Your Cash Cow Become Indifferent

No longer can you just let a brand sit there for 5 years straight without any investment.  That beautiful Cash Cow that has a steady share, kicks out profit with minimal investment isn’t really there any more.   Instead of going to the near-zero budget, pick a fair margin that allows you to find a cost-efficient plan for how to stay connected with your most loyal consumers to avoid losing relevance.  Watch the competition so you don’t let them catch you sleeping.  Keep investing in R&D to ensure your brand stays in the leadership position.  Attack costs at all levels–production, packaging, shipping to free up any wasted costs that you can use to stay relevant.  And please, avoid just substituting top line marketing spend for crappy trade spend that just keeps throwing money at the trade.  If you have a brand that needs to be on deal, just to sell the product, you’ve got a cash drain brand, certainly not a cash cow.

In terms of portfolio management, I don’t use the BCG Matrix, preferring to look at Market Attractiveness vs Consumer Perception of a given brand.  The tool forces you to look from the vantage of the consumer.   The Market Attractiveness could include criteria such as category size, growth rate, trend analysis, strategic fit for the brand or market dynamics including positioning, competitiveness and retailer strength.   The Consumer Perception could include the size of the need state the brand satisfies, the health of the brand funnel (awareness, consideration, purchase, loyalty) and the overall opinion of the brand.  This is a more progressive tool to enable you to invest in brands that are in a healthy category with strong possibilities for success.

Cash Cows need to attack themselves or they’ll become a Cash Drain.

To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

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  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  3. Consumer Insights:  To get richer depth on the consumer, read the following story by clicking on the hyper link:  Everything Starts and Ends with the Consumer in Mind

 

Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

 

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About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.

REJECT OK, because OK is the enemy of Greatness

Do you remember how you felt when you first landed your first marketing role?  You likely went into marketing because you loved the strategy and the creativity that you saw the great marketers had done.  Beloved Brands like Apple, Nike, Dove, Disney and Starbucks likely  inspired you to get into this role.  Unlike other occupations, you were drawn to it, and you wanted to bring an energy level to make a difference.  It likely was hard to get that first marketing job–so many people wanted to get in.  And you were so excited on that first day when you walked into the office and found your cubicle.

Your first few months on the job had you crashing and banging into everything.  Every day, you heard “you can’t do that” or “we don’t do that here” which started to suck the life and energy out of you.  And once you stopped doing those things, you noticed that your performance reviews went so much better.  Then you got promoted and made it to a Brand Leader role.  Congratulations.  But now you have to make a choice: do you cave to corporate world and become the boring marketer that does OK work?  Or do you try to reach back to those feelings you had when you entered marketing and find the way to bring it back into the mix with the more sophisticated knowledgeable marketer that you’ve now become?

Explaining what a Marketer does to non-Marketers is odd because we don’t really do anything.  We don’t make the product, we don’t make the ads or public relations and we don’t even sell it.  Yet the Brand Leader is held responsible for sales, share and profits.  And they should be.  While we don’t do anything, we do have a say in everything that goes on about the brand and we sit in the seat that can inspire everyone around you, or it can be the one that inhibits creativity and suck the life out of everyone around you.  As you sit in the Brand Leader role, the worst thing you can ever do is say “Yes” to OK ideas.  If you’ve ever said “Yes” to an OK idea, you know that you lost a bit of who you wanted to be.

My challenge to you is to REJECT OK, because OK is the enemy of greatness.

Saying “Yes” to OK is even more demoralizing than saying “we don’t do that here”.

Brands move along a Brand Love Curve, moving from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and onto becoming a Beloved Brand.  Most brands find themselves stuck at the Like It stage–where they deliver adequate sales and share.  Marketers of Like It brands fear losing those sales, so they opt for the status quo filled with OK ideas.  The problem with status quo in today’s competitive environment is that you are likely falling back to Indifferent and you just don’t realize it.  But it should make sense, because if you’re indifferent about your work, then why wouldn’t your brand end up there.

If you don’t love the work you do, then how do you expect the consumer to love your brand?

Rejecting OK work is not easy, especially if you have a reputation for playing it safe and approving OK.   It is always tempting to look at all the work that’s been presented to you and figure out which one is the best.  So you pick the 6 out of 10, and make some recommendations that might it up to a 6.5.

Because you don’t really do any of the work, not only do you need to REJECT OK, but you have to inspire the greatness to come from others.

Execution does matter.  While we want great execution against great strategy, I’d say that great execution against an OK strategy is better off than OK execution against a great strategy.  In today’s crowded marketing world, where consumers see 6,000 ads a day, standing out is more important than it ever has been.

If you are up for the change, you should start at the beginning of the process.  Sit with your lead account person and lay out your deepest thoughts on how you want your passion for the work to come shining through.  Find the language that translates your passion accurately at the outset and then be consistent to that passion throughout.  Here’s what I have said in the past:  “I know we need an Ad that delivers the strategy, sells more product and drives share.  But I also need an Ad that I love, that I’m proud of and something I can hold up and say I DID THIS”.   I always felt “I have to love it” is the highest bar you can set.  It also gives you the out by saying “I just don’t love it”.  Tell your account person, you are building in extra time in the process just so we can see if we can really push to get to great.

But saying is one thing, doing is another.  Be consistent at every stage because people follow how you say it as much as what you say.  Write an inspiring brief that is open on creativity, and isn’t filled with support points or mandatory requirements.  Ask to meet the creative people before the first creative meeting so you can talk about your expectations that you want to create work we all love.  At the creative meeting, you need to stay open, positive and push for different because that is usually where greatness lays.  Follow your instincts first. Absorb the work in the same way your consumer might.   Reach for words that describe your instincts and how you feel about the work.  Stay open and inspiring.  Do not get into all the details or the changes you want–save those for a post meeting email.    Talk only about the work you love–don’t even talk about the ones you don’t like.  You want your positive energy to come through.

It’s one thing to inspire but it’s another thing to actually go for it.    I find it strange that Brand Leaders always push for a strategic point of difference no matter how small–but when it comes to execution many of us fear sticking our neck out and looking different.  When it comes down to making the choice, you need to show everyone how serious you are by taking a chance on greatness and not just picking the safe options.  You have to be wiling to fight for it, because you can imagine that there will be push back.  This is your opportunity to shine, your opportunity to inspire everyone on your team and your opportunity to push for true greatness for your brand.   And you’ll bring back those feelings of excitement that you had the day you decided to get into marketing.

You can only Reject OK, if you are willing to inspire greatness.

To read about how to Create Beloved Brands, read this:

 

Brand Leadership

I run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:  Brand Leadership Learning Center

 

 

 

To read other stories on Brand Leadership, click on any of the topics below:

There is a Facebook page called “Brand Leadership Learning Center” at 

 

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If you or team has any interest in a learning program, please contact me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth.  To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1 or join us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BrandLeadership

How to Build Your Media Strategy

Start with the Brand Funnel

It’s interesting that most people start with where the media is and not where the consumer is in relative terms to where your brand is.  Every brand should understand their Brand Funnel, at least measuring Awareness, Purchase and Loyalty rates.  While sales, share and profits are the obvious measurements of a brand, they are easy to see but are the end result.   The funnel provides richer signals of the true health of the brand before they even show up in share reports and provides possible indicators of future performance.  It’s the equivalent of blood pressure and cholesterol, which aren’t obvious on the surface but are signals of real health concerns that need to be addressed.

Almost like a finger print, every brand has a unique brand funnel.  Your brand will have certain strength as well as leaks in the funnel.  For instance, most Challenger Brands are either at the Indifferent or Like It stage, and they have a funnel that gets skinny quickly as you move down.  While challenger brands can garner Awareness, they struggle to stay in the consideration and even fall out even more at the purchase stage.  

I encourage brands to analyse the Leaks by looking at how the consumer might move along the brand going from Indifferent (unaware, noticed) to Like It (interested, bought) to Love It (satisfied, repeater) and Beloved Brand for Life (Fan, outspoken).  At each stage, match up what the consumer feels about the brand as well as what the possible reasoning for why they might reject the brand.

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Brand Leaders like Sony, started to see cracks at the purchase stage as consumers started seeing just how much better Samsung when they were able to compare brands at the store level.  In fact, people hung onto the Sony brand much longer than they should have.  That’s actually a sign of the power that Beloved Brand status gives you.

The Consumer Buying System

Going forward, you now understand your brand funnel’s strength and your leaks that you need to close.   Then start to Map out your Consumer Buying System and you’ll be able to see how the media plan begin to take shape.  With most brands you can see consumers becoming Aware and then Consider.  The difference is Awareness can be related to how good your programs are, and consideration is related to how relevant or inspiring your brand concept is.  Then consumers go into some type of Search to verify what they’ve now heard, whether that means asking friends, reading reviews or looking on-line.  Usually the Search effort is in direct relationship to either the importance or cost of the item.  Some brands, especially CPG items would have a Trial component.  Brands are now utilizing on-line to variations to simulate trial–whether looking at what a house or car might look like, customized to your needs.  If trial is crucial to your brand, add that into the buying system.  The Buying stage where money is exchanged.  At the last-minute something may change a consumers mind.  They may shift based on last-minute information or influence or they may choose to stay with their usual brand.  Promotion can move consumers at the last-minute as well, especially on brands where there is little differentiation.   After the buying, there can be all types of dynamics, starting with Satisfaction or not meeting expectations.  On experiential items, the purchase to satisfaction is even more complicated, especially when product and service are combined (hotels, restaurants, services).  After the purchase, consumers quickly decide whether to buy again or reject it or even just buy it occasionally.  It’s not easy to become a usual brand where you start to see the consumer become Loyal or even becoming a Fan of the brand.

Every good strategy starts with a focal point, and media strategies are no different.  While there is a temptation to do it all and cover all part of the buying system, in reality you never have the resources to do it all, so you have to put your money where you think you will have the biggest impact.  Even with social media, which is considered “free“, it does still take a lot of effort, so picking the social media that makes most sense for your brand is crucial to the return on effort.  Try to match up to return on effort and return on investment by using some Prioritization Tool.  Map out all the tactics as to how big they are and how easy they are.  You’re trying to find the big and easy ideas–avoiding small and difficult.  If they are big and hard, brainstorm ways to make it easier.  If they are small and easy, brainstorm ways to make them bigger.

Linking the Love Curve to the Consumer Buying System

Brands that are stuck at the Indifferent stage should focus their resources against driving overall awareness to ensure the start of a strong funnel.  But then, they need to convert  that Awareness into Consideration utilizing announcement style advertising to highlight differences that can separate the brand from competitors.  This is where the combination of mass media and digital media can help hold the hand of consumers as they move along the buying system.  The brand can also begin utilizing search to their advantage with experts to re-enforce any brand differences or influential consumers with strong opinions

Brands at the Like It stage can find themselves stuck.  They are successful enough to be a strong brand, but sometimes too complacent to do anything different.  Instead of keep pounding the mass media out, these brands should use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to capture those consumers aggressively seeking out information as they move through the buying system.  More and more, with google or social media, it’s easy to seek out expertise or just opinions. Trip Advisor and Yelp are great forums where consumers look to what others have said, and use that information to help consumers to make decisions.  Also consider media that can get as close to the point of sale as possible whether that’s in-store or on-line.

When moving from Like It to Love It, the brand usually moves from a product focus to a higher order and one that talks to the experiences.  How media can help is to get consumers to wear the brand as a badge or honour or sharing their experiences.  Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest can help consumers tell of their experience or even showcase the consumers love for the brand.  Setting up a Listening Forum helps give consumers a voice in how their brand shows up.  Brands that set up a conversation with their consumers such as Whole Foods who engages on Twitter or TD Bank who set up an ongoing dialogue with consumers.

Moving to the Beloved Brand stage requires a bit of magic.  Find a mechanism to surprise and delight your consumers that already love you, create an exclusivity club so consumers can feel they are part of the brand at the highest levels.  The effort in both of these areas can help your most loyal consumers to influence others into using the brand.  At the Beloved stage, you need to continually improve to avoid going back down the love curve, and that means managing every part of the consumer buying system.  Close leaks before the consumer even knows they are leaks.

A generation ago, brands had a firm control over the message and the media, helping to manage their buying system by themselves.  However, with social media, managing the brand becomes even more complicated because consumers are a medium themselves.  While word of mouth has always been there, it’s normally been Mother to Daughter, Father to Son or friend to friend.   Now we rely on complete strangers to make our decisions.    It’s a big like playing zone defence instead of man-to-man defence–it can feel a bit looser for Brand Leaders to manage.  But in reality, it makes it even more important to know and articulate your positioning, messaging and media choices that make sense.  If you engage to listen to your consumers, you have to act on their input and advice.  Otherwise, they’ll stop being engaged.

Before seeing a media plan, I’d encourage to understand where your sits on the Brand Love Curve, dig into your Brand Funnel using it to see strengths and to map out the leaks.  Take that knowledge into the Consumer Buying System so that you are choosing the media options that will help drive stronger growth for your brand.  The media choices are all about focus and return on resources–both dollars and effort.  Find the focal point that enables your brand to find more growth.

Use your Media Strategy to force choices to ensure Return and Growth for your brand.

To see a training presentation on getting better  Media Plans

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

 

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

 
Ask Beloved Brands to help you with your media plan or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

A Brand Leader’s View of Social Media

There’s been lots of talk lately about how much marketing and brand management has changed.  I’m not sure it’s changed at all.  As Brand Leaders, we still need to start with the consumer, drive for insights, match up their need states to your brand’s offering and then create a competitive offering that you can own so that no else can.  A great brand has to be either better, different or cheaper.   That still holds true, and we still aren’t at the media decision.

Yes, the media options have changed, but  there is so much more to running a brand than just the media options.  The average consumer now sees 6,000 ads per day, and likely only engages and acts on a few each day.  Not just social media, but every little space to and from work each day.  Media is ubiquitous, making it even more important to choose a media plan that makes sense for your brand.  Before we get into the role of social media for brands, let’s review where Media options fit into the Brand Planning process.   Here’s the fastest 130 word summary of the planning process.

  • We have some long-term thoughts on where the brand can go and the special assignment to get us on our way.   And that helps shape the things we want to achieve with our brand.  To get started, the brand has different options for how to get there
  • We try to find a slice of the population to get them to take an action that makes our brand bigger.   We then find out what to say and how to talk to them to trigger that action we need to re-enforce why we can do it and others can’t.
  • We then create the most motivating stimulus to get them to take action and put it in part of their life where they are most likely to hear it and act on it.

So the media choice is all about finding a part of the Target Market’s life where they are most likely to hear the message and act on it.   As I’ve always looked at media plans from the vantage of the Brand Leader, I’ve always looked at a balance of strategy, media efficiency, the link in with the creative and finally, the mood of the consumer at the time of the media exposure.  So with TV, while day parts matter to the efficiency, the day of the week also matters to the mind and mood of the consumer.  How receptive will they be to your message at the time of exposure?  When I worked on serious healthcare brands that wanted to deliver serious news about the brand, we wanted to own Sunday nights when people’s brains were working full-speed as they get ready for work.  But we would avoid Thursday night when we knew they were thinking about the weekend.  When I worked in confectionery, the reverse was true, as we wanted to own the weekend slots.

So as we look at Social Media and where is their mood and emotional state as they engage certain social media options?   I started with the 8 emotional need states that Hotspex as mapped out:

  1. I seek knowledge
  2. I want to be in control
  3. I want to be myself
  4. I’d like to be comfortable
  5. I feel liked
  6. I want to be noticed
  7. I want to feel free
  8. I feel optimistic

I then mapped out the consumer’s mood and emotional state while they are using the various social media tools.

For instance, when the consumer is seeking knowledge, they might use google, slideshare, wikipedia, TD Ameritrade or Harvard Business Review, depending on what knowledge they seek.   But when they in the mood to be noticed or liked, the same consumer might then choose Facebook, foursquare, meebo, twitter or even Pinterest to express their personality on-line and connect with friends.  The same consumer seeks out various social media tools to fuel their emotional needs at different points of the day. I know at lunch, I sneak away from the seriousness of work and read gossip on People.com or check for sports trades on ESPN.

From a Brand Leaders view, as you try to win with consumers,the first thing to do is  understand where your brand stands emotionally with consumers.   Using the Brand Love Curve, most brands start off at Indifferent, then move to Like It, then to Love It and finally to becoming a Beloved Brand.   Be honest in your evaluation, use data to support your view, because it impacts the mood and emotional feelings of your consumer about your brand.  For instance, at the Indifferent stage, where consumers have little or no opinion, I’d recommend using display ads that create awareness and in places that match up to your brand’s main strategy, positioning and messaging.  You might not want to create a Facebook page that only 17 people like–which re-enforces that consumers are indifferent to your brand.  Last month, I saw a rock quarry with a sign that says “Like Us on Facebook”.  That’s crazy!   Conversely, if you are a Beloved Brand, it becomes more about opinion and less about the pure facts.  Engage on Facebook and twitter to continue the conversation and fuel the love of your consumers, use your popularity in those mediums to influence the feeling of a movement and popularity for your brand.

Whenever I talk to Social Media experts, they rarely talk about anything that involves the consumer.  When I ask about the consumer, they blow me off, as though I don’t really understand Social Media and how powerful it will be in the future.  They tell me I’m old school.   But, regardless, I keep asking about the consumer because that’s what old school marketers are told to do.  I need to know how my consumers interact with the medium because I need to match up the behaviour of my target so that I can get my message to them in a way that matches up with my strategic needs–whether that’s connected to the stage of my brand, any strengths and weaknesses in my brand funnel or a large opportunity in the market that plays into my brand’s natural strengths.  Wait a second, that’s the same thing that great marketers have been doing since the 1920s. So while the execution of media has dramatically changed with the internet, the strategic thinking of really good marketers has not.

So next time you sit with a media expert, as they present ideas ask

  • How does my target consumer use this medium?
  • What is their mood and emotional state when they use that medium?
  • How receptive will they be with my brand’s strategy, positioning and message when they are engaged with that medium?

About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. I love great TV ads, I love going into grocery stores on holidays and I love seeing marketers do things I wish I came up with. I’m always eager to talk with marketers about what they want to do. I have walked a mile in your shoes. My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. I’m now a marketing consultant helping brands find their love and find growth for their brands. I do executive training and coaching of executives and brand managers, helping on strategy, brand planning, advertising and profitability. I’m the President of Beloved Brands Inc. and can help you find the love for your brand. To read more about Beloved Brands Inc, visithttp://beloved-brands.com/inc/

Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” is Stealing away the Olympics again!!!

At Beijing in 2008, Nike did such a good job that almost as many consumers felt they were the Olympic sponsor.

They flooded the malls of Beijing with Nike ads, knowing that people would be so hot, they would seek shelter in the malls. It was so successful, it forced the IOC to change the rules for Vancouver 2010 where only sponsors could do any ads within 150 miles of the host city. In London, Nike’s Jordan brand has already announced that they will be carrying live tweets of the US team’s Basketball games. (to read that article, click here: Nike to Ambush the Olympics through Twitter) But Nike’s “Reach For Greatness” campaign has the chance to steal away the games of London 2012.

For me, there are two visuals that stand out from these Olympics:

  1. The kid up on the diving tower, who stands in terror and eventually jumps
  2. The fat kid running along an empty country road at the break of dawn.

Here we are watching the Olympic games, where the greatest of the greats converge. Where Silver is referred to as the first loser. Where people who come fourth are in tears and feel the need to apologize. Where millionaires are instantly made–their sponsor has their new TV ad out within seconds of winning Gold. Visa congratulated athletes with real-time footage seconds after their victory and Corn Flakes has the Gold Medal winner already on their box. Terrific marketing, but what about the average Joe? Who is for the underdog in this world?

And yet here comes Nike, with two average people trying to reach for greatness in their own way. It’s a pleasantly surprising move coming from Nike who have a stable of the most pompous and most pampered athletes of our day. This is yet another move fron Nike, a non-sponsor, to hijack the Olympics. Since Nike has enough money to sponsor the games, I wonder if they are having more fun trying to steal them away without paying. It is fast becoming a lucrative hobby. It is amazing to see real people reaching and celebrating their own versions of greatness. These average people are far more inspirational than Tiger Woods or Lebron James.

This first Nike TV ad shows all the greatness going on around the world, creatively borrowing the word London, whether that’s in London Ohio or London Nigeria, London Field or on London Street. I love the end of the ad with the kid perched up in terror on the diving tower, afraid to jump. It’s a perfect metaphor for our own fears. And then he jumps. It’s the most basic of jumps, but the point is…he jumped. Maybe if we push ourselves, we can find our own version of greatness.

 

The next ad, features a 12-year old from London Ohio, filmed with one shot against a voice over. And yet it is extremely creative and inspiring. This is not a super human. This is what average looks like. Here’s a kid that’s 5 foot 3, 200 pounds, trying to get in shape. Not for the games of 2024, but just to get in shape. We can all relate to this kid. None of us are going to the games, but we can each push ourselves to get a bit better and find our own greatness.

 

Congrats Nike, you’ve done it again. This is the best return on no-investment I have seen.

 

If you are in the mood to see other great advertising, here’s a few other stories:

 

To see a training presentation on getting better Advertising: 

 

If you or team has any interest in a training program, please contact me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

 

About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  Click on any of the topics below:

Coke’s Futuristic Fountain Experience Thrills Consumers

When I was a kid, it was so much fun to go up to the pop fountain and combine every flavour: a little bit of Coke, a bit of Sprite and Orange or Root Beer and back to the coke for a bit more.  But Coca Cola Freestyle takes that to the next level by combining art, science, entertainment and design to give you up to 100 options to make the fountain drink of your choice.  These new machines, in mostly high-profile locations, not only give you a drink, but a fun and very cool interactive experience.

First you choose your drink from among 20 choices.

With the Coca Cola Freestyle, I walked up to this big huge wall where I had a touch screen choice of about 20 different drink options–Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Coke Zero, Minute Maid or Root Beer.  So I hit Coke Zero.  And then I had a choice of 8 different flavour version options of Coke Zero–Lime, Orange, Lemon, Cherry, Vanilla etc.  So I hit Orange.  As my drink filled up, I could smell the rich orange flavouring coming from my Coke.  I never had Orange Coke before.  It was a bit different but I loved the variety.   Who knows what I’d get next time, but it sure keeps the Coke love affair alive.

Coke is definitely one of the most Beloved brands on the planet.  At the Beloved stage, the marketing effort has to shift to separating yourself on the experience you can create for your consumer.   How many more times can Coke say “Coke Is It”?   With this Freestyle fountain, Coca Cola has been able to leverage a unique technology to allow them to surprise and delight their consumers.  “Coca-Cola Freestyle represents a complete departure from anything consumers have experienced before,” says Nicola Kettlitz, President, Coca-Cola Ltd.  “The state-of-the-art technology provides unparalleled opportunities to engage and interact with consumers while we continue to provide the high quality, great tasting beverages we are known for.”

Then you choose your flavour alteration from among 8 choices.

Forbes has even declared Coca Cola Freestyle as one of the coolest products of the decade.  The experience is fuelled by an innovative and award-winning technology.  Coca-Cola Freestyle creates brands by blending concentrated beverage ingredients with water and sweetener at the point where the beverage is dispensed.  The recipes for each brand have been tested and perfected to deliver a consistent product with every selection.  The technology that is leveraged in Coca-Cola Freestyle also provides significantly more flexibility in adding new beverages and helping consumers more efficiently manage their beverage business.  For you supply and demand geeks, these machines also are to transmit data to both Coca-Cola and the owner including the brands sold and flavours, and even the times of the day of the sales.

Coca Cola Freestyle is a unique way to bring fun and adventure to the Coke brand.

About Graham Robertson:  I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. I love great TV ads, I love going into grocery stores on holidays and I love seeing marketers do things I wish I came up with. I’m always eager to talk with marketers about what they want to do.   I have walked a mile in your shoes.  My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  I’m now a marketing consultant helping brands find their love and find growth for their brands.  I do executive training and coaching of executives and brand managers, helping on strategy, brand planning, advertising and profitability.  I’m the President of Beloved Brands Inc. and can help you find the love for your brand.  To read more about Beloved Brands Inc, visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/

How to Write a Brand Plan

BBI Learning LogoA well-written Brand Plan helps to align an organization around the direction, the choices and the tactics that need implementing for a brand to achieve their goals. The Brand Plan unites functions such as marketing, sales, product development outlining what each group needs to do for the brand to be successful, while setting goals that operations and finance need to support. The Brand Plan gains approval from senior management around spending options, strategic choices and sets forth the tactics that will be implemented. It holds senior management accountable to the plan. The Brand Plan helps frame the execution for internal stakeholders and for the various agencies who will implement programs within the plan. Execution is an expression of the strategy, and the plan must hold agencies accountable to delivering work that is on strategy. And lastly, the Brand Plan helps the Brand Manager who wrote it, stay focused to deliver what they said they would. It helps them to refer back to the strategy and the intention to ensure the Brand Manager “stays on strategy” the entire year.

Where are you on the The 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.  It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with.  The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand.  It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand.

With each stage of the Brand Love Curve, the consumer will see your brand differently.  The worst case is when consumers have “no opinion” of your brand.  They just don’t care.   It’s like those restaurants you stop at in the middle of no-where that are called “restaurant”.  In those cases, there is no other choice so you may as well just name it restaurant.  But in highly competitive markets, you survive by being liked, but you thrive by being loved.  Be honest with yourself as to what stage you are at, and try to figure out how to be more loved, with a vision of getting to the Beloved Brand stage. 

Writing the Plan

Most people get stuck in writing a Brand Plan, because they sit at the computer frozen with writers cramp, over-thinking what to put down, uncertain how to frame it all and unsure how to even write. In the most simplistic of terms, here are the main elements of a Brand Plan and how simple you should keep it:

  • We have some long-term thoughts on where the brand can go (vision) and the special assignment to get us on our way. (mission) And that help shape the things we want to achieve with our brand. (goals) To get started, the brand has different options (strategies) for how to get there and programs that most effectively deliver the choice you make (tactics)
  • We try to find a slice of the population (target) to get them to take an action (expected result) that makes our brand bigger. We then find out what to say and how to talk to them to trigger that action (main message) We need to re-enforce why we can do it and others can’t (support)
  • We then create the most motivating stimulus (product, advertising, sales promotion etc.) to get them to take action and put it in part of their life where they are most likely to hear it and act on it (the medium, launch or channel etc.)

If it is that easy, why do we struggle and how do we screw it up. Maybe it is the fancy buzz words that get in our way of our intention. Instead, start with what you want to do in the plan, not the buzz words of vision, mission or strategy, because those words can get in your way.

One thing I like to do is use 5 key questions to help frame the Brand Plan, the answers help frame everything you need in a brand plan. The five questions to ask yourself are: 1) Where are we? 2) Why are we here? 3) Where could we be? 4) How can we get there? and 5) What do we need to do to get ready?  With these 5 questions answered, it can get you on your way towards a situation analysis, mapping of the key issues, statements of vision, mission and goals, choices around strategies and tactics as well as the execution and measurements:

From there, you could easily write a Brand Plan as matched up and outlined below:

In terms of analysis, there are so many ways to do it but my preference is to use a force-field analysis of Drivers and Inhibitors. Basically, drivers are what is pushing the brand and inhibitors is what’s holding it back. These are happening NOW.  Then add in the a future looking analysis of Risks and Opportunities.  These could happen in the future.  The simplicity of this analysis helps the next stage of your brand plan, and set up the Key Issues which are focused on finding ways to continue/enhance the growth drivers, minimize or reverse the inhibitors, avoid the risks and take advantage of the opportunities.

I like to put the Key Issues into question format, as a rhetorical question (eg. Key Issue: How do I drive more distribution for Listerine?), because the answer to these questions becomes my strategies (Leverage New products to gain added Distribution in the Food channel).  The better the questions, the better the strategies.  

Not enough plans use a vision and mission statement. They are essential in helping to frame the direction of the brand. Think of the Vision Statement as the end in Mind Achievement, thinking 5-10 years out of what do you want your brand to become. It can be a balance of qualitative and quantitative. And it should be motivating and enticing enough to motivate people to get behind it. The Mission Statement becomes the “special assignment” and is tightly connected to the vision, but is more likely a 1-3 year direction—if a vision is a destination, then a mission is a major milestone on the path towards that vision. While a vision focuses on the future state, the mission focuses on the movement the brand must undertake to go from present day to future state.

Strategic Thinking

Strategies are choices you make.  If you pick everything then you aren’t really making a choice are you?   There are 4 elements of a good strategy: Focus, Early Win, Leverage and a Gateway to something bigger.

  1. FOCUS all your energy to a particular strategic point or purpose. Match up your brand assets to pressure points you can break through, maximizing your limited resources—either financial resources or effort.
  2. You want that EARLY WIN, to kick-start of some momentum. Early Wins are about slicing off parts of the business or population where you can build further.
  3. LEVERAGE everything to gain positional advantage or power that helps exert even greater pressure and gains the tipping point of the business that helps lead to something bigger.
  4. Seeing beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, which is the entrance or a means of access to something even bigger. It could be getting to the masses, changing opinions or behaviours. Return on Investment or Effort.

In terms of writing of the Brand Plan, my recommendation is focus on the top 3 strategies and then map out 3 tactics per strategy. That’s a total of 9 tactics per year, which is plenty to put all your money behind. Having only 9, allows you to do a great job at each of the tactics, focuses your money on the top tactics that will drive the highest return on investment and effort. Just imagine if you had 5 strategies and 5 tactics per–you’ve just gone from the top 9 tactics up to the top 25 tactics. It might feel like you are covering more, but really you’re just spreading your money too thin and not really doing a great job at any of them. Too many brands end up with a “To Do” list that’s long at the start of the year and mysteriously unfinished at the end of the year.

A good brand plan should have a consistency from the vision all the way down to the execution. It should flow. Think of a band playing in perfect harmony. When you write something that does not fit, it should stand out like a “Tuba” player, trying to play his own song. It’s misfit to the plan. As you near completion of your plan, go through your document and see if you can spot misfits. Find the Tubas!

Lastly, I recommend organizations come up with a common format for plans across all plans. Freedom in formats just forces Brand Managers to try to come up with the coolest of power point slides. I’d rather have my Brand Managers putting their creative juices into tactics that get into the marketplace rather than doing cool slides. And while Brand Plans might use 10 or 20 slides (no more than that) ideally you can find a way to get your entire “Plan on one page” making it easier for everyone to follow along.

Use the Plan to Guide Everyone, including Yourself

 

To read more on How to Write a Brand Plan, read the presentation below:

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1 

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

Ask Beloved Brands to run a workshop to do your Brand Plan or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

How to Be a Successful VP of Marketing

Quintessentially, rule #1 is you have to Make the Numbers. 

As the VP, your main role is to create demand for your brands.  What’s expected of you is to gain share and drive sales growth to help drive profit for the company.   The results come from making the right strategic choices, executing at a level beyond the competitors and motivating your team to do great work.  But how you do it, and the balances you place in key areas are choices you need to make.  Making the numbers gives you more freedom on how you wish to run things.  Without the numbers, the rest might not matter.

Here’s my Six points of advice on How to be Successful VP of Marketing. 

  1. While your people run the brands and the execution, you should run the P&L and essentially run all the marketing processes.  You have to run the P&L and make investment choices.  Bring an ROI and ROE (Return on Investment and Effort) mind set to those decisions.   These choices will be one of the essentials to making the numbers and gaining more freedom in how you do the job.  In terms of process, it’s always been my belief that great processes in place—brand planning, advertising, creative briefs—is not restrictive but rather provides the right freedom to your people.  I’d rather my people drive all their creative energy into great work that gets in the marketplace, not trying to figure out what slide looks really cool in the brand plan presentation.  I’ve worked as a Brand Manager in a marketing team without process and it was total chaos, not fun at all.

    Click on the plan above for How to Write a Brand Plan

  2. Focus on the People and the Results will come:  The formula is simple:  the better the people, the better the work and in turn the better the results.  You should have a regular review of the talent with your directors.  I’d encourage you to ensure there’s a systemic way to get feedback to everyone on the team, preferably on a quarterly basis.  Waiting for the annual review is way too late and almost negligent as a leader.  Your people have the potential to grow with feedback.   But without feedback, they’ll be confused and even frustrated.  You should invest in training and development.  Marketing Training is not just on the job, but also in the classroom to challenge their thinking and give them added skills to be better in their jobs.  Marketing fundamentals matter.  And the classic fundamentals are falling, whether it is strategic thinking, writing a brand plan, writing a creative brief or judging great advertising.  People are NOT getting the same development they did in prior generations.  Investing in training, not only makes them better, but it is also motivating for them to know that you are investing in them.  And that helps drive retention and commitment into producing great work and driving results.  To view examples of best in class Marketing training:  Beloved Brands Learning Sessions
  3. Be consistent:   People have to know how to act around you.  You have to set up an avenue where they are comfortable enough to approach you, and be able to communicate the good and bad.  A scary leader discourages people from sharing the bad results, leaving you in the dark.  On the other hand, open dialogue helps you be more knowledgeable of what’s really going on, so you can run the business.  Also, they have to be able to challenge you and push forward new thinking into the system.   This helps your brands to stay modern, push new ideas and connect with consumers.  If you push your ideas too far, you could be pushing ideas from a generation too late.  Be consistent in how you think, how you act in meetings and how you approve.  Inconsistent behaviour by a leader does not “keep them on their toes” and create an atmosphere of “creativity”.   It inhibits creativity, and creates tension that adds no value to the brands.  People forget that leadership assumes “followership” from your team.  Creating a good atmosphere on the team will make people want to go the extra mile for you.  Be a good listener and you’ll be surprised on what people tell you—how honest they’ll be, how much they’ll tell you.  Knowledge makes you a great leader, and it starts with listening.
  4. Let them own it and let them Shine:  Remember when you were a Brand Manager and the passion you put into that job—the greatness you sought–drove you even harder.  Now it’s time, for you to step back and let them have that same passion to do amazing work and drive the results.  It has to be about them, not you.  At the VP level, I used to walk into every meeting knowing that “I knew less about the issue on the table, than anyone in the room”.   I looked for ways to support and encourage great thinking, while challenging them to reach for even better.  It’s not easy to balance giving them to freedom and yet knowing when to step in and make a decision.  When I was a Brand Manager, my VP once said to me “every time I make a decision, I weaken myself”.  Honestly, I thought he was certifiably crazy, until I was in the VP role.  And then it made sense.  By making all the decisions, you bring yourself down a level or two and you take over their job.  They’ll start to look to you to make EVERY decision and that just makes you the “Super-Duper Brand Manager”.    Instead, knowing how to ask good questions of your team to challenge or push them into a certain direction without them knowing you’re pushing them is more enlightening than coming up with statements of direction.  But on the other hand, when they put their great work up for approval, and it’s fundamentally sound, approve it.  Don’t do the constant spin of pushing for better, because then you look indecisive.  For how those on your team can be better, view: How to be a Successful Marketing Director or How to be a Successful Brand Manager or How to be a Successful Assistant Brand Manager
  5. You are the Mayor of Marketing:  Bring a vision to the role.  I tried to use vision statements to rally the team, almost like campaign statements.  I used  “Everything starts and ends with the Consumer in Mind” to push my team to be more consumer focused.   And I used  “If we each get better, we all get better” to bring a re-commitment to training and development. Look at what needs fixing on your team, and create your own vision statements that relevant to your situation.  Bring a human side to the role.  Get up, walk around and engage with everyone on your team.  It will make someone’s day.  Your role is to motivate and encourage them to do great work.  Challenge them and recognize the great work.  It might be my own thing, but I never said “thank you” because I never thought they were doing it for me.  Instead I said “you should be proud” because I knew they were doing it for themselves.  Influence behind the scenes to help clear some of the roadblocks in the way of their success.  Know when you need to back them up, whether it’s an internal struggle they are having, selling the work into your boss or with a conflict with an agency they are struggling with.  
  6. It’s a rather lonely job:  I remember when I first took the job as VP, I found it surprisingly a bit lonely.  Everyone in marketing tries to be “on” whenever you are around.  And you don’t always experience the “real” side of the people on your team.  That’s ok.  Just be ready for it.  Also, the distance from your new peers (the head of sales, HR, operations or finance) is far greater than you’re used to.  And it might feel daunting at first.  Your peers expect you to run marketing and let them run their own functional area.  And the specific problems you face, they might not appreciate or even understand the subtleties of the role.   Your boss also gives you a lot of rope (good and bad) and there’s usually less coaching than you might be used to.  It’s important for you to have a good mentor or even an executive coach to give you someone to talk with that understands what you’re going through.

As you are coming up through the marketing roles, observe great leaders equally watch bad leaders.  I learned equally from watching both.  It will help frame how you will do the job.  Keep a checklist of “when I’m in the VP role”.   Bring those into the role, and look to improve upon what your predecessor left for you.  I was lucky in that my predecessor did a great job in turning around the business, giving me freedom to bring energy and passion into the role.

My last piece of advice for you is, Enjoy it.  Yes, it’s stressful.  You worked hard to get here.   Bring that enjoyment into the role.  If you love the work, it will be contagious and your people will feed off that passion and energy. They will be better for it.

After all, the better the people, the better the work, and  in turn the better the results.

To read how to run your career as well as those on your team read the following document.  Feel free to download and share with your team.

Other Roles You May Be Interested In
  • Assistant Brand Manager:  It’s about doing; analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.  It’s not an easy job and only 50% get promoted to Brand Manager.  To read a story on how to be successful as an ABM, click on the following hyper link:  How to be a Successful ABM and get Promoted
  • Brand Manager:  It becomes about ownership and strategic thinking within your brand plan.  Most Brand Managers are honestly a disaster with their first direct report, and get better around the fifth report.  The good ones let the ABM do their job; the bad ones jump in too much, frustrated and impatient rather than acting as a teacher.  To read about being a successful Brand Manager, read:  How to be a Successful Brand Manager
  • Marketing Director:  It’s more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing.  Your role is to set the standard and then hold everyone to that standard.  To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best.  Let your best people shine, grow and push you.  Follow this hyper link to read more:   How to be a Successful Marketing Director
Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Positioning Statement.  Before you even get into the creative brief, you should be looking at target, benefits and reason to believe.   To read how to write a Brand Positioning Statement, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write an Effective Brand Positioning Statement
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits 

Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

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To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.