Brand Management: How to Be a Great Brand Leader

Brand LeadershipIt seems that marketing these days is more about “doing” than it is about “thinking”.  

“Activity Based Marketing” has replaced strategic brand management. Marketers are content if they are doing something, regardless if it is the right something.  Everyone I interact with is too busy doing stuff, running from meeting to meeting, chasing the to do list.  Marketers today are so busy, that they don’t have time to think.  If you want to be a great marketer, you need to be carving out time to sit back in your chair and say “what’s next”.   

Are you Strategic?  

I know you want to say yes.  And I’m sure it’s on your Linked In profile.  So you must be.  But if you are doing more activity than you are doing the thinking, then you aren’t really operating strategically.  You are too busy chasing your own tail.  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 planners who can see connections.   Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions.   They get to answers quickly, and will get frustrated in delays. They opt for action over thinking, believing that doing something is better than doing nothing. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks.  They can be frustrated by strategic thinkers.  Look back at the past week and ask “are you acting strategically?”

Are You a Fundamentally Sound Marketer?

No matter how bright you are, if you haven’t been properly trained, then you aren’t realizing your full potential.  You likely are struggling with writing your brand plan, you aren’t quite sure what has to go onto the creative brief and you aren’t sure how to give an agency feedback.  You’re not sure which media option makes the most sense for your brand.  These days, marketing has become a completely “on the job” training ground.  There’s very few fundamentals being taught.  You are given a desk and a brand and told that “we think marketers learn on the job” and “we think it’s your boss who should be teaching you”.  Since there has been a few generation of marketers who haven’t been trained, it’s very likely that your boss isn’t quite sure of the fundamentals of brand management.

If you are a bright, but you think you are lacking the fundamentals, you are not alone.    

Are you Running the Brand?  Do you act like an Owner?

Brand Manager has to have a mindset that reflects the CEO, accountable for growth, costs, profit and shareholder wealth.  A great marketer runs the brand, rather than letting the brand run them.  The starting ground for running the brand is to have your finger on the pulse of the brand and make sure everything revolves around that pulse.  Everything in the company should feed off the Brand DNA.  The Brand DNA (many call it the Brand Essence) is the most succinct definition of the Brand.  For Volvo, it’s Safety, while BMW might be Performance and Mercedes is Luxury.  The Brand’s DNA has an external and an internal.  Externally, you should be looking at the consumers’ view and the brand personality you’re trying to project outward to them.  Internally, the products and the internal brand beacon should help align everyone working on the brand.   

Slide1The classic role of Brand Management is that the Brand Leader is at the hub and everything revolves around that Brand Leader.   But in reality, they aren’t really revolving around the Brand Leader.  They are revolving around the Brand DNA and it’s just that the Brand Leader owns that DNA and uses it as a lens to judge all the activity around the Brand.   That is the starting point of strategy.

Everything Revolves around the Brand DNA

The Brand DNA should help frame 

  1. Brand Plan that drives the business for the upcoming year or the next 5 years 
  2. Brand Positioning that connects to the consumer through marketing communications 
  3. Customer Value Proposition that links the consumer needs to the benefits of the brand 
  4. Go-To-Market strategy that frames the distribution and the selling process 
  5. Cultural Beacons that help define the brand internally through values, inspiration and challenge and finally 
  6. Business Results, with each brand offering a unique way that it makes money.   Each of these six needs feed off the Brand DNA, look to the definition as a guideline for how to align to the brand.  

When you begin to blow this out one step further, you can start to see where the complexity comes into play with each of the six areas have their own needs that should still feed off that Brand DNA.

Use the Brand Plan to Drive the Direction of the Brand

The planning area should help to frame the Brand Plan, which is a combination of a one year Brand Plan and a 3-5 year strategic plan.  The Vision and Mission provide the future direction, objectives align to the Business needs and Brand Funnel objectives and Strategies and Tactics help to drive towards those objectives.  Included as well should be a Calendar and Budgets.  For a tutorial on how to write a Brand Plan, click on the following link:  How to Write a Brand Plan

Plan 2.0

From the DNA, map out a positioning statement that can help frame the Marketing Communications plan.  That includes the creative big idea, the media mix, earned media (PR, Events) social media, key influencers (e.g. Doctors or Contractors or Bloggers).  As well, the positioning frames the identity which could include logo, language, look and feel and brand book.  My hope is that you don’t change this very often.   Looking at the complexity of the Brand Management system outlined here, it baffles me that Brands facing tough times reach for changing their logo so quickly when so many other factors could be driving the issues.  For a tutorial on writing Creative Briefs, click on:  How to Write an Effective Creative Brief

Staying on Strategy is just as Hard as Coming up with the Strategy 

If you don’t have time to think, then how do you know what you’re doing is the right thing to do?   The Go-To-Market plan should also feed off the Brand DNA and come out of the Brand Plan.  The Distribution strategy and needs should match up to the needs of the brand, including decisions around Key Account focus, pricing, sku mix, promotion and the possible role of new products.  In a fast-moving category like cereal or gum, or a high technology driving category like computers, phones or TVs, both share a high need for product innovation.  For brands that require in store selling, you should also include the In-store experience which could be demonstration, signage or trial as well as possible selling messages for sales people on the floor of the distribution channel.  These messages should feed directly from the brand messages.

The R&D plan should feed off the Brand DNA and develop products that match the brand.  Too many times, R&D is in their own world, trying to invent things that have nothing to do with where the brand sits.  They expect marketing to be able to sell their inventions.  Even in a technology driven business, Apple is driven first by the consumer.  Steve Jobs really understood that you don’t just sell what you have.

Brand also drives the Culture and the DNA should provide a beacon for the People to follow.  The brand story told within the company is even more important than what you might tell the market through your advertising.    Talent management means hiring the right people and providing the right training.   Too many companies are cutting back on training.   Remember that better people produce better work that drives better results.   Keep investing in your people and the business results will come.  Empower your people to get the most from their ideas.  Leverage values, inspirational touch points and processes to inspire and challenge them on achieving greatness.

Managing the Brand

Brand drives the Business Results.  Slide1 The more loved a brand, the more tightly the connection it has with their consumers.  This connection becomes a source of power that the brand can wield in the market to drive higher growth rate and profitability.   The Brand Leader is responsible for driving the P&L, driving sales and share, managing the forecast and costs for an efficiently run brand.  The Brand Leader must figure out the levers of the P&L it can use to drive more profits.  For a tutorial on driving profits through your brand, click on:  How to Drive Profits through Your Brand

Leading the Brand

Putting the Brand Leader front and centre will allow you to leverage the Brand DNA into each of the areas of your business, whether that’s marketing, sales, R&D, finance or human resources.  The Brand Leader should be at the centre of this hub, with each area looking to the Brand DNA as a beacon of how they can do their job most effectively in helping the brand drive long-term growth and profitability.

Here’s a robust summary on Brand Management that looks at it through 8 areas:  

      1. Beloved = Power = Growth = Profit
      2. Brand DNA and Vision
      3. Brand Promise
      4. Brand Analytics
      5. Brand Plan
      6. Execution
      7. Managing
      8. Leading

Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Manage Your Marketing Career  This looks at the four levels in marketing from ABM to Brand Manager to Director and up to VP of Marketing.  For each level it outlines the 5 things you need to master.   To read and even download the story, click on this hyperlink: How to Manage Your Career from ABM to CMO
  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. 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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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 so we can stay connected.

Is Blackberry ripe for a Comeback?

Unknown-1Blackberry created the entire smart phone category–and yet in the last 24 months, it has drifted into near obscurity.  Blackberry’s biggest issue was arrogance as it thought it was invincible to attack.  As the brand faced complete collapse, the ousting of its two founders and the dramatic loss in market share, the arrogance is certainly gone.   But, Blackberry has also been a victim of thinking about the device first and the consumer second.  

Blackberry also lacked that attention to the detail of the art of the phone that Apple has made us love.  Yes, there was a camera, but a bad one.   Yes, they had apps, but way fewer and they lacked magic.  And yes, they had a browser and links to your favorite social media sites but it was slow, unpredictable and a complete pain in the ass some days.  Once we figured out that you had to take the battery out and put it back in again, we started to think of the Blackberry as kind of pathetic. 

The Height of Blackberry

If i was writing this in 2008, Blackberry would be one of the most beloved brands in the world.   Those of us who were addicted were dubbed “Crackberry Addicts”.   Even as the iPhone was just launching, many of us Blackberry fans weren’t quite ready to switch.   Yes, the iPhone was great if you were an artist or worked at an Ad Agency, but if you had a corporate job, then Blackberry was the status symbol you wanted.   For many corporations, the Blackberry was a reward of job level or title at work.   Getting that Blackberry meant you had made it.  It was totally a self expressive status symbol of the corporate world.   And recognizing that status, the Stock Price soared upwards to peak in 2008 at $150.   Billionaires were made, articles were being written as though they were….Steve Jobs.
Love Curve Detailed

The Crash

The crash was steady and the crash was fast.   Not only were there better phone choices in the market, Blackberry’s arrogance seemed reluctant to do anything about it.  They stood still and the product became inferior.   The keyboard would stick, the camera was pathetic, the browser would get stuck daily and the speaker phone was weak.  While the world was migrating over to the iPhone or the Android, the worst thing was when those same corporate VP’s in your office started showing up with their new iPhone at work.  “What….we can get one of those now?”.  And all of a sudden, the corporate world wanted to switch over.  Blackberry had lost their base user–the corporate guys.

Unknown-2The last straw was the launch of the Blackberry Playbook, a late response to the iPad that it had mocked only 18 months earlier.   There were many problems with the Playbook–no point of difference being the biggest.   The price point dropped quickly. There were no real Apps.  And it seems that it was a quick opportunistic launch by Blackberry.  No one wanted it.  It was almost dead on arrival.  People were willing to grant Blackberry a Mulligan, but when they started to ask “so what’s next?” the answer Blackberry gave was “we’re not quite sure, let us get back to you”.

The stock price went from a high of $150 down below $20.  There were dramatic lay offs and then further dramatic share losses.  They courted potential buyers, such as Samsung, who came in and looked around and said no thanks.  The stock price continued to fall as the brand was on life support–all the way down to $6.

One of the quickest falls from Beloved Brand down to Indifferent.  The term “crackberry” is gone from our lingo.   Blackberry went from corporate status symbol to a bit of a loser.  People sheepishly bring out the blackberry in public ready with the excuse of “I’m on a 3 year service plan, and then I’m switching”.

We Love a Comeback Story

Here comes Blackberry 10.   The stock price has doubled in the last month.  But for Blackberry to make it back to the status of a to Beloved Brand, they need to focus on the Five connectors of a Beloved Brand:  1) Brand Promise 2) Strategy 3) Brand Story 4) Freshness and 5) Experience.  


When Blackberry first made it big in the 2001-2003 time frame, they put all their efforts behind the Innovation which was closely connected to the Experience.  It was a “here’s what we do, we hope you like it” communication.  That’s OK when you are as revolutionary as Blackberry was.  Being able to send an email from anyone was such a revolution, that consumers did the rest of the work.  We had never seen anything like it, and it changed our lives forever!!!!  But once Blackberry faced some competitors, we never saw them effectively tell their brand story and their lack of innovation caused the experience to fall short on the experience.  They were basically a ‘one-and-done’ innovation that made it big, but they never really successfully evolved.  

In 2013, the market is crowded with Samsung and Apple battling it out.  For Blackberry to break through they need to effectively tell their story to their target market.  From the looks of the reviews, they are mixed–which is not a bad position.   Many reviewers are locked and loaded on Apple and Android.  It will be a battle for Blackberry to win through critics.  

USP 2.0

Brands need to be either different,better or cheaper.  Or not around for very long.   Does this new Blackberry 10 feel all that different from what you can get with Apple or Samsung?  

I’d love to see Blackberry speak to one audience, and stop talking to the masses.  Get back to that corporate VP who once was in love with the Blackberry brand and show them why they should love you again.  It’s now time to find a niche you can win over and powerfully defend.   You have to matter to those who care.    

Telling the Blackberry Story

For the come back to work, Blackberry must do what they’ve always been bad at:  Telling the brand story.   Culturally, Blackberry has known to not really care about advertising.  They brought in a high powered CMO a few years ago.   He walked out the door after 9 months because no one wanted to listen to him.  

So let’s look at what we are seeing so far.  Let me be critical of what we’re seeing so far because so far it’s not very good.  

Whoever made this launch video isn’t getting it.  It’s two boring guys who look like they should be in suits that have decided to leave the suit off so they can look cool and casual.  I’m not a wardrobe consultant, but heck why not put on a $2000 suit and look like a damn boss.  Let Apple own the casual.   Secondly, the demo is bad.  The whole communication is about how easy the “flow” of movements are, except in the on-stage demo, it’s not working.  That can’t happen.  It sends the signal of one of Blackberry’s weakness–lack of attention to detail.  While Apple might screw up the maps or other things, they would never mess up an on-stage demo.  


This cute little launch video is awful.  It might have worked in 2005 when Blackberry had a monopoly.   But it does nothing to separate the Blackberry brand from the crowded market.   the lack of voice-over type ad only works for iconic brands that need very little to say.   But for a small brand going after a niche, it needs to separate itself with a balance of logic and emotion.  


I’m a former Blackberry lover who wants to love Blackberry again.   I hope that Blackberry can find a way to make the most of the Blackberry 10 and even if they make a mini-comeback, it would be good for the market.   But, as a consumer, I’m not seeing enough for me to trade in my iPhone.  

What’s Your Vote?  Will Blackberry have a successful comeback?  



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: 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   or visit my Slideshare site at where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on LinkedIn at  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1 or join us on Facebook at

Ten Best Super Bowl Ads of All Time

Super-Bowl-47-LogoEven though I’m almost over the Patriots loss from last weekend, let’s start Super Bowl week off with a tribute to all the great Super Bowl ads over the years.  

I hope a few of these spots bring back some good memories for you and if there are any special ones missing for you, feel free to add them in the comments.  

Coke “Mean Joe Greene” (1979)

Bit of that 1970s “cheese” for you, but I remember this one from my teens.  The spot has become as iconic as the drink itself.  

Apple 1984 (1984)

Great story of this ad in the Steve Jobs book–how the board never wanted to run it and they lied about the media commitment.  This was one of the first big Super Bowl ads, that changed the way advertisers saw the Super Bowl slots.    

Diet Pepsi Michael J Fox (1987)

A little bit of that “Back to the Future” feel of the 1980s Michael J Fox.  Very cute tone is a good fit for Pepsi.    

McDonald’s Jordan vs Bird (1992)

This one had a lot of break through and left us with the phrase “nothing but net”.  The current Tiger Woods/Rory McIlroy spot uses (steals) the same formula.  

Cindy Crawford “New Can” (1992)

Not much needs to be said about this one, other than that they repeated this 10 years later and she still looked the same.  

Budweiser: WASSUP! (1999)

The simplicity of this one, but it really does capture a male-bonding insight of how guys do interact with their buddies.  

FedEx “Pigeons”

FedEx has been using sarcastic humor to make their point for years.  This spot has a good feel with the FedEx tone.  

Snicker’s Betty White (2010)

Whatever Betty was paid, she’s made millions since because of this spot.  Quickly after this one, the power of a Facebook page demanded that Betty host Saturday Night Live.  A great little spot, one that Snicker’s has yet to fully capture in their pool outs on this campaign.   

Chrysler Eminem (2011)

I love the tone of this spot, perfect casting with Eminem–the rawness of his voice, attitude and authenticity.  The repeat in 2012 using Clint Eastwood was a good spot as well, but not quite up to the Eminem version.  “Imported from Detroit” is a very big idea.  Love it.  

Budweiser 9/11 Tribute (2002)

Even after all these years, this one might bring a tear to your eye.  Months after the tragedy of 9/11, this one takes the American icons of Budweiser and the Clydesdales marching through the streets of America and gives a nice salute to NYC.  

Good luck to this year’s Super Bowl, as many of us will be watching the TV ads as much as we’re watching the game.  The power of the venue as the Super Bowl out draws the final game of the other 3 sports (Baseball, Basketball and Hockey) combined.  

And I lied: I’m not quite over the Patriots loss yet.  

What’s Your Favorite Super Bowl Ad of all time?

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New TV ad from Samsung: Is it “smart” to Take on Apple?

As the two brands battle in the tablet and smart phone market, the most recent TV ads by Samsung have them mocking Apple consumers.  They are pretty funny ads, a good parody of the most loyal of loyal Apple consumers.  

I love them.  But are they a smart strategy?  

As an Apple fan, they even make me laugh at myself, a little bit how I laugh at myself for not buying the Apple stock at $150….$250….$400 or even $550 earlier this year.  While Apple might have had a sloppy news week (apology over the new map or some bitterness over the new iPhone 5’s new charger) the brand still has tremendous momentum as they continue to broaden their audience.  In fact, iPhone 5 has outsold iPhone 4 by 1 million units in the first weekend.  

These Samsung ads probably will sell a few more Galaxy phones, but it won’t do the two main things that it’s intended to do:  1) It won’t change how people feel about the Apple brand and 2) It won’t really change how people feel about the Samsung brand.

Samsung is not a brand driven company–but rather a product driven.  Even with all the sales, my Brand Love Index research shows that 48% of consumers are mainly Indifferent about Samsung brand–while some “Like It”.  This contrasts to the frenzy that consumers have with 71% seeing Apple as a beloved brand and no one is Indifferent to the brand.  Even the Sony brand still surprisingly outperforms Samsung, even though they’ve really been struggling to keep pace on anything electronics–TVs, phones, computers.

In general, successful brands are usually either better, different or cheaper.  The Samsung brand has found strength in being “cheaper”.   Samsung is the type of brand that you might switch to at the store level when you find out that you can get more features for 100 bucks less.   But then you don’t really brag about it to your friends.  

With this summer’s past lawsuit the judge summed up the Samsung brand when he dismissed one of Apple’s lawsuits.  Judge Colin Birss declared:

“The Galaxy tablets do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design.  They are not as cool.”

So while these are good and funny ads, the research would suggest that Samsung has the brand clout with consumers to really carry out such an attack against the beloved Apple brand.  People likely laugh at the ads as they might a Saturday Night Live skit, but then wonder half an hour later what brand that was.  And if someone reminded them it was Samsung, you’d likely say “oh ya, Samsung” and then totally dismissed it.

If I were Samsung, I’d keep spending my marketing dollars at the store level trying to switch Apple users in the store or in the search and on-line space where I could highlight the product feature superiority.  As an offensive attack on Apple, Samsung is playing right into Apple’s strength of connectivity.  Yes, Samsung do a good job of  using the features of the Galaxy to demonstrate how great their phone is.  But the mocking of the Apple fans is the wrong way to go.  For a beloved brand like Apple, the consumer loyalty is far past logic.   These Apple consumers have replaced thinking with feeling, so this message will be totally lost on them.   Instead, the Apple fans are still chuckling over the Judge’s ruling that called Samsung “not cool”.

People who aren’t fans of Apple point to the product. (logic only)

But fans of Apple point to the brand.  (pure emotion)

Attacking Apple by making fun of the loyal users…funny ads…but, not so smart.


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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   or visit my Slideshare site at where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at  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:

How to write an Effective Creative Brief

BBI Learning LogoThe best Advertising is well planned, not some random creative thing that happens.  The value of a creative brief is focus!  Like a good positioning statement, you’re taking everything you know and everything you could possibly say, and starting to make choices on what will give you the greatest return on your media dollars. If you’re not making choices then you’re not making decisions.  

Unlike other creativity, advertising is “In the Box” creativity.  The best advertising creative people  are problem solvers, not blue sky thinkers.  Therefore, the role of the creative brief is to create the right box, enough room to move, but enough direction that defines the problem.

Advertising is a balance of freedom and control.  But, oddly enough, most Brand Managers allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative.  It should be the reverse.   Brand Managers should control the strategy not the execution.  Briefs with multiple objectives or many main benefits send the signal to agencies that you aren’t quite sure and want the agency to pick the strategy.  But a long list of mandatories sends the signal that even though we don’t know the strategy, we do think we know what we want the creative to look like.  This is where the marketer should get a bit more comfortable in dealing with ambiguity and allow some creativity to come about.

The agency should write the brief.  I’m not sure why this is so contentious–but it seems that half of brand people still want to write the brief.  Let it go!  You can still write an advertising strategy, but let the Agency Translate it into a brief, in their words and their format.   You can still debate every word for hours or even days to ensure that it aligns to your strategy.   But having them write it, allows the agency to own it and believe in it.  It also allows the account team to communicate with their creative teams–which is the main role of that brief.  Using the agency format makes it simpler for the creative teams.  This is the first step in giving the agency some freedom, while still maintaining control over the strategy.

The smaller the brief, the bigger the idea.  A good brief should be brief.  One page maximum.  I’m still in shock when I see briefs reaching 5 or 6 pages.  That’s not a brief, that’s a long!  Take the pen and start stroking out words, forcing yourself to start making decisions.  Avoid the “just in case” type of thinking.

The Brand Plan and Advertising Strategy

In the smallest of words, the brand plan should be focused

  • 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 help shape the things we want to achieve with our brand (objectives) To get started, the brand has different options (strategies) for how to get there (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, ad, promotion) 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

Within a good brand plan,you should have an advertising strategy that should answer the following six key questions.

  1. Who Do We want to sell to?  (target)
  2. What are we selling?  (benefit)
  3. Why should they believe us?  (RTB)
  4. What Do We want the Advertising to do?  (Strategy)
  5. What do Want people to do?  (Response)
  6. What do we want people to feel?   (Brand Equity)

For those looking for a basic creative brief format, the best I like includes something that outlines a) the long-term consistent brand essence and strategy b) consumer knowledge including target definition and insights and c) the core of the brief, outlining the problem to solve, focusing on stimulus and response.


Most Brand Managers struggle with the target.   I once sat in a room where a brand manager had a target of 18 to 65, current customers, potential customers and employees.  Basically, everyone but prisoners and tourists.   While it’s tempting to sell to everyone, you should focus your resources on those most likely to buy, pays off.  Focus on those who may love you, not everyone who just might tolerate you.  Spreading your limited resources across an entire population is cost prohibitive.  While targeting everyone with a “just in case” attitude might make you feel safe at first, it’s actually less safe because you never get to see the full impact.  You should use consumer insights to bring the target to life.  The dictionary definition of the word Insight is “seeing below the surface”.   Too many people think data, trends and facts are insights.  However, these facts are merely on the surface—so they miss out on the depth. Insights can be sorted into three types: life Insights, brand insights and category insights.   You are really looking for these “aha” moments that brings the focus onto the consumer.

Brand Managers also struggle with the main message.   Sell the Solution, Not Just Your Product.  Keep in mind that “people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole!”   Agencies use so many tricks to get it down to the ONE THING.  And whatever works for them or you, the better.  If it’s a

postcard, a bumper sticker, “what would you say to get someone to marry you”….find your own way to think about one thing.  One of my favourites is the “SHOUT FROM THE MOUNTAIN”.  It forces you to want to scream just ONE THING about your brand—keep it simple.  Yelling just one word is so much easier than a 13 word sentence or even worse, a long list of 6 bullet points.  Another good exercise, once you are close on the brief is to challenge yourself to go through the brief one more time, and see if you can take out 5-15 words.  You’ll be surprised how much better it gets.  And lastly, I always have fun throwing three objects at people, starting one at a time and then all 3 at once.  It’s so much easier to catch one than all three.

To read about how to write a mini version of a brief follow this link.  How to Write a MINI BRIEF

The Smaller The Brief the Bigger the Ideas

To read more on Creative Briefs, follow this presentation

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 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 find your brand positioning or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

Google just wants to be Loved…but don’t we all?

Eight years ago Google talked about trying to do business without being evil.  It was refreshing and ground-breaking in a world of excess greed.  If only the Wall Street Bankers had done the same thing, maybe we wouldn’t be in this financial crisis.  Yet, people criticize Google for saying they aren’t evil because of their tough way of doing business.  Yes, Google has a near monopoly, but they have earned that position.  Yes, they are agressive in the market and wield power over the market they compete in.  I’d hate to be one of their competitors–just ask Yahoo and MSN.  But don’t mix evil up with good ole smart capitalism and a high regard for empowering their beloved brand.

Recently the Larry Page, the CEO of Google took it even further towards being a beloved brand.  In an open letter, he stated:

“We have always wanted Google to be a company that is deserving of great love.  We recognise this is an ambitious goal because most large companies are not well-loved, or even seemingly set up with that in mind.”

If you want to find the ways that Google has achieved love from their consumers, look in the list of “The Ten Things We Know to be True” that Google created very early on in their life.  Any great brand could learn from that list–and very few brands live by these rules.   In that list, Google proclamed they would “Focus on the user and all else will follow”.  I wish every brand took such a consumer centric view, instead of just a product centric view.  I always think that the consumer is the most selfish animal on the planet, and satisfying that consumer’s selfishness will turn you from just a usual sellling brand to a connected brand that consumers can not live without.  Google also said: It’s best to do one thing really, really well.  So many brands are trying to be all things to all people, that they end up diluting the meaning of their brand and the promise that leads their effort.    A brand is a promise that you must be able to keep.  Trying to do everything will ineviatably mean failure in breaking that promise.  A beloved brand knows who their consumer is, and equally who is not their consumer.  I hope Google stays true to this idea.  Arguably Google has had a few little wiggles from the search focus, and wonder where they go with Google+.   Wiggles are OK, diversions are not.   And the other thing Google said was:  Great just isn’t good enough.  Brand Leaders play it too safe too often and settle for OK.  They don’t take any chances–they focus just on the logic and mind of the consumer.  They fear trying to be emotional, because it feels uncertain.  They end up boring and liked but they never reach the loved stage.   Google on the hand states that Great is the starting point to push yourself beyond:

We see being great at something as a starting point, not an endpoint. We set ourselves goals we know we can’t reach yet, because we know that by stretching to meet them we can get further than we expected. Through innovation and iteration, we aim to take things that work well and improve upon them in unexpected ways.

Ironically, Google has produced one TV ad, and it’s one of the best in the last decade.  It’s very emotion and showcases the power that Google has in our lives.

Instead of criticizing Google for stating that they want to be loved, I’d like to see all Brand Leaders push themselves to be loved.   Everything should start and end with the Consumer in mind.  Beloved Brands intimately know their consumer and become a part of their life.  With most brands, Consumers move along a “LOVE CURVE” going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It, and then they’ll make their Beloved Brand into A Brand For Life.  The Love Consumers have for a Brand becomes a Source of Power, helping to change the dynamic the brand can have with suppliers, customers, competitors and even with the consumers themselves. There’s nothing wrong or evil with using that power to the advantage of the brand.

In fact, you need to find the way to leverage the power of being Beloved.  The “Love Curve” can be linked to the brand funnel which becomes the underlying scoreboard for the brand.  And it helps to provide strategic focused against one key area of the funnel. Used properly, the brand power can drive the P&L with four levers:  increasing price, lowering costs, increasing share, creating new markets.  An efficient brand can leverage the P&L to invest back in the brand’s connectivity and drive profit and create value for the brand.

When it comes to execution, brand leaders play it far too safe.  Too many times, they fail to do work that is good or different.   They stick to the usual and sameness–resulting in boring work that fails to stand out.  The zone you should be pushing for is Good But Different:  It might not always test well, as it is beyond the consumer’s thinking.  Consumers don’t have the imagination to always know what they want.  They know their problems, just not the solutions.  But once consumers start to see how the differences meets their needs, they’ll start to buy.  It might feel like the highest risk but it also is the highest long-term sustainability and potential to be loved.

My challenge to you is to push yourself and your brand to find love by putting all your passion into the brand work you do.  If you don’t love the work you do, how do you expect the consumer to fall in love with your brand?

Five Brand Resolutions For 2012

As we start 2012, here are some Brand Resolutions.

  1. Take a Walk in Your Consumers Shoes.  See the brand as they do.
  2. At every turn, ask yourself “DO I LOVE IT?”   Reject all work that is “just ok”.
  3. Delegate But Do Not Abdicate Ownership of your Brand.
  4. Create a Culture around your Brand—Brand should be everyone’s job, not just marketing.
  5. Once you create a Beloved Brand, you should run your branded business as a source of Power that helps drive Profit and Value.

#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.   In 2012, be the spokesperson who represents the consumer to your team and watch the work get better.

At each stage of a the Brand Love Curve, you should challenge yourself with Amazing programs by asking “do I love this”  Reject all work that is “just ok” and push everyone to make the work better.  

#2:  At every turn, ask yourself “DO I LOVE IT?”    Reject all work that is “just ok”.  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 2012 to lead yourself with passion equal to logic and find a way to love the work you do.

#3:  Delegate But Do Not Abdicate Ownership of your Brand.   In 2012, stop saying a)  “Oh well, the agency is the expert” b) “I never liked the brief” or c) “I never fully agreed with the Decision”.  These feel like a cop out, and it makes you look like a wimp.   Good brand leaders engage in the brand and lead it.   Sometimes it’s delegating to the team to keep them motivatated, but just as many, you have to challenge the direction to ensure the thinking is sound.   In 2012, stop acting like a Manager and start acting like a Brand Owner!

#4:  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 2012, challenge yourself to realize that you need more than just you living the brand, you need everyone living and breathing it.

#5:  Once you create a Beloved Brand, you should run your branded business as a source of Power that helps drive Profit and Value.  You should be looking at your business through the lens of your brand.   Yes, the brand promise sets up how the external community views your brand whether that’s consumers, customers or key influencers.  But equally so, brand becomes a beacon to help guide behaviour, decisions, action, structure and the formation of a culture.  You should drive your growth and profitability through your brand, with a focus on driving share, enhancing price while managing costs and finding new markets.   Most marketers will tell you that branding is about positioning—it’s about being “unique”.  I think positioning is a means to driving growth and making money—it’s about being “powerful”.   The challenge for 2012 is to create a connection with your consumer that can be leveraged as a source of power for you to drive value and profit for your brand.

By driving a deeper emotional connection with your consumers, you can turn that connection into power, which can than be used to drive even further power and value for the brand.  

I really hope you try one of these out in 2012.   And I hope you see the difference.  

Happy New Year!