Be a Better Brand Leader by saying “Let’s cut to the Chase” more often

Brand LeadershipCut to the Chase and Avoid the Brand Spin

Stop being that brand that keeps spinning and gets nothing done.  Within most brand portfolios, there are those problem brands that just seem to spiral downward out of control.  They spin, and spin and spin.  Nothing gets done.  Decisions don’t get made.  They try something.  It doesn’t work immediately.  So they change course.  And spin some more.  Everyone thinks they have the answer, but no-one shares the same answer.  And more spin.

What’s missing is a leader who will stand up to everyone on the team say “LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE”

Cut to the Chase with the The 40/70 Rule

I love the Colin Powell rule that when you are facing a tough decision, you need at least 40% of the information, but oddly enough, you should make the decision with no more than 70%.  Once you’re in that 40-70% zone, go with your gut and make the decision.  

If you make a decision with less than 40% of the information, you are shooting from the hip and you will make too many mistakes. The 70% part of the decision-making rule is what surprises many Brand Leaders. They often think that they need more than seventy percent of the information before they can make a decision. A lot of Brand Leaders want as much data as they can.  Many times they hope the data will make the decision for them.  But if you want the data to make the decision, then why do we need you in the Brand Leader role?   Why don’t we just put the Market Research person in your job?  We could pay them less and just go with the data output from the research 100% of the time.

But, in a highly competitive market, if you wait to get more than seventy percent, then the opportunity has usually passed and someone else has beaten you to the punch. A key element that supports Powell’s rule is the notion that intuition is what separates the great leaders from the average ones. Intuition is what allows us to make tough decisions, but many of us ignore our gut.  Relying on too much information can stiffen a leader, paralyzing the team to seek out more data.   They become afraid to make decisions.  Always keep in mind that marketing is half science and half art.  Don’t forget about the art.  People who want certainty in their decisions end up working for other people, not leading.

So, next time you feel your team has 40-70% of the information say “LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE” and see if you can push them to making the best decision they can make.  

Cut to the Chase with Tough Questions

One of the big spin factors is lack of alignment. Everyone at the table has their own view of what needs to be done.  The team ends up paralyzed with indecision.  A team moving together towards a common strategy, even if it is only a pretty good strategy, is much smarter than a team moving in three directions, with each thinking they have an amazing strategy.

Align first on the Key Issues of the Brand. 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.

Here’s an example of How to do a Key Issues Deck.  This is something I do with clients all the time and after a 1 or 2 day session, they can feel they are aligned.

 

Ask the Tough Questions of the team.  Tough questions make a team pause and start thinking instead of just doing.  I always frame the Key Issues in question form, believing the answers to those questions become the strategy.  But I believe that 90% of your effort should go into asking the big challenging questions that startle and yet motivate the team.  The better the question you ask, the better the strategy.   For instance, if I wanted to lose a few pounds, I could ask the question: “how can I lose weight?” which is not really a good enough question to generate rich insightful strategies.   But if I were to ask a better question: “what exercise program would help me successfully lose 10 pounds and work with my busy life?” all of a sudden better strategies start coming to the surface.  

Use these tough questions that force tough solutions by saying to your team: “LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE”

Cut to the Chase and Find Your Difference

Part of the spin zone brands go through is they never find their own point of difference.  They over-react to what competitors are doing, copying them hoping to neutralize what advantage they have.  But by trying to be everything that the competitor is doing, they end being nothing really.   USP 2.0

The most Beloved Brands are either better, different or cheaper.  Or else not around for very long.  in a crowded market, it’s really hard to be genuinely be significantly better.  And unless your entire company is set up to be more efficient than everyone else, it really leaves different.   But as you push for being different, you want to be smart and different.  Use this venn diagram to brainstorm points of difference.   

Then challenge the team to find their Good and Different.  Use the very simple map below to see where your ideas fall. 

good-vs-different

  • Good But Not Different:  These do very well in tests mainly because consumers have seen it before and check the right boxes in research.   In market, it gets off to a pretty good start—since it still seems so familiar.   However, once challenged in the market by a competitor, it falters because people start to realize it is no different at all.  So they go back to their usual brand and your launch starts to go flat.  This option offers limited potential.
  • Good But Different:  These don’t always test well:  consumers don’t really know what to make of it.   Even after launched, it takes time to gain momentum, having to explain the story with potential investment and effort to really make the difference come to life.  But once consumers start to see the differences and how it meets their needs, they equate different with “good”.   It begins to gain share and generates profits for the brand.   This option offers long-term sustainability.
  • Not Good and Not Different:  These are the safest of safe.  Go back into the R&D lab and pick the best one you have–even if it’s not very good.   The tallest of midgets.  They do pretty well in test because of the familiarity.   In market, it gets off to a pretty good start, because it looks the same as what’s already in the market.  But pretty soon, consumers realize that it’s the same but even worse, so it fails dramatically.   What appears safe is actually highly risky.  You should have followed your instincts and not launched.  This option is a boring failure.
  • Different but Not that Good:  Sometimes we get focused on the product first:  it offers superior technology, but not really meeting an unmet need.  So we launch what is different for the sake of being different.  It does poorly in testing.  Everyone along the way wonders why we are launching.   But in the end, consumers don’t really care about your point of difference.  And it fails.  The better mousetrap that no one cares about.

Look to the grid above and say “LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE” and push your team to find something that is Good and Different.

What is Your “Let’s Cut to the Chase” Moment?

 

To read more about how to create a Beloved Brand:

 

Skills to Challenge Your Brand Leaders:  
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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

Pick your Social Media vehicle and follow us by clicking on the icon below:

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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

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Top 5 Things Brand Leaders Should be Worried About

Are You Worried Enough?

Everywhere you look, people are telling you not to worry so much.  There has become such a “Don’t worry, be happy” mentality.  You can buy books on it, go on-line for tips, take a yoga class or attend seminars that are all designed to help you worry less.  Slide1These might be band-aid solutions.  Because if you are no longer worried and you never took any action against those worries, you might sleep better in the short run, but your brand might fall completely apart while you’re sleeping.  So oddly enough, I’m here to ask you:  Are you actually worried enough?   And with that worry, are you taking the right action against the things that matter???

5 things you should be worried about:
  1. The underlying brand health numbers?  Most leaders track sales and share, pushing hard on a quarterly basis.  But, just like a slim person that works out and runs who can have high blood pressure and cholesterol, a brand can have the same internal health issues.  Slide1Brand Funnels can help you analyze where your brand really stands, against awareness, consideration, purchase and loyalty, whether looking at absolute scores, ratios, comparisons with competitors or tracking over time.  The Funnel also helps identify where you are on the Brand Love Curve and can help choose your brand strategy:  Indifferent brands have skinny funnels throughout. You should fuel the  awareness to kick-start the funnel and drive some sales.  At the Like It stage, the Funnel tends to narrows at purchase.  Creating a more emotional connection will keep the consumer engaged right through the funnel to the purchase and make you a little more loved than just liked.  At the Love It stage, you should have robust funnels, but may still see a leak at the loyalty stage.  Closing the leak and building a stronger loyal following will turn your brand into a Beloved Brand.  Beloved Brands have the most ideal funnels, but you should still track and attack any weaknesses you discover before competitors can attack them.  If you know the health of your brand, you’ll sleep better at night.  
  2. How aligned is everyone on your team?   I’m a strategy guy, but even I can tell you that a team moving in one direction against a good strategy is better than a stagnant team still in search of the amazing strategy or moving in two or three distinct directions.  Part of the problem I see with executive teams is the Leader of each functional area comes with their own bias: The finance leader thinks the brand should maintain margins and go for a lower share.  The operations leader wants less skus and a more efficient plant.  The sales leader wants more volume, even if it means cutting the price.  And the marketing leader wants more advertising to drive share.  Each answer has merit, but they are never brought together behind one plan.  Strategy is about making choices.  But even with a choice, unless the teams are aligned, key members will just be anticipating the failure of the choice.  If you have an aligned team, you’ll rest a lot easier on the drive home each night.  
  3. What your competitors are doing?  it’s important that you’re constantly tracking where your competitors are–not under-estimating them or over-reacting to their tactics.  You should understand the competitors actions deeply.  USP 2.0A great practice in a real competitive battle is to do up a full brand plan of how you anticipate they will act. That would include budgets, goals, market research, strategies and tactics.  Once you find your unique selling proposition, you must work hard to maintain ownership over it.  Brands have to be either unique, better or cheaper.  Or else, not around for very long.  In a highly competitive and combative category, use the strategies of Marketing Warfare:  1) Defensive:  Leader of category or sub-category defending their territory by attacking itself or even attacking back at an aggressive competitor.  2) Offensive:  Challenger’s attack on the leader to exploit a weakness or build on your own strength.  3) Flanking:  An attack in an open area where the Leader is not that well established. 4) Guerrilla:  Going into an area where it’s too small for the Leaders to take notice or are unable to attack back.  Constantly analyzing and attacking the competition will keep you one step ahead.  
  4. What your brand will look like 5 years from now?   While you are feeling pressure to make the current quarter, if you keep going quarter-by-quarter, you’ll start to feel like a mouse who is constantly running just to make that next quarter. But every 90 days, you’re missing that long-term vision, purpose and brand values that can help guide your organization in driving the brand’s growth.  Does everyone in your organization know the brand vision?   Does everyone know and live the Brand’s DNA, weaving it into everything that you do.  Once you establish your Brand’s DNA, it should drive every part of your brand organization–brand plan, communications, people, R&D, profitability and sales organization.  Everything should drive the relationship between your brand and consumer.   If you know where your brand’s direction and get everyone moving towards that common direction, trust me, you’ll feel a hell of a lot better as the leader.  Slide1
  5. How good are your people?  A good leader recognizes that they are only as good as their people.  The better your people, the better the work, and that means the better results.  You should evaluate your team against skills, behaviors and experiences.  To drive effective Brand Leaders, a good rule would be 10% of the time should be on training–not just at junior levels but right up to the Brand Leaders.  Many companies are cutting back on training, and you’ll start to see the gaps in your people.  Using the 10% rule would mean up to 20 training days–that would be used against strategic thinking, analytics, planning, leading and managing.  But if you’re only doing 2-3 days of off-site training or the training you’re doing is to meet corporate compliance, then you’ll notice that the performance of your people just won’t be there.  Who will replace the best people on your team?  Who will replace you?  That should concern you.  What’s happening in marketing these days is we hire a bright person and just throw them into the job.  While “learning on the job” is a reality in marketing, there needs to be a balance with coaching and training.  If you’re relying on bosses to do the training, you have to realize that manager never received any training either so how competent are they to teach?  And if you’re worried about investing in training and then the person quits, you might actually realize that maybe if you invested in training you might drive up the retention.  A recent study shows that 52% of employees say they would leave a role because of their direct manager, and two-thirds are convinced their managers don’t know what motivates them to be more productive.  A constant revolving door will not create great work or the results you’re looking for.  To read more on what makes great Brand Leaders, follow the link to the Brand Leadership Learning Center   If you have great people on your team, you’ll get much better results on the business, and you can find that work-life balance you’ve always wanted.  
So the question I have for is “Are You Worried Enough?”   And what are you doing about it?

 

Slide1

 

To read more about how to create a Beloved Brand:

 

Skills to Challenge Your Brand Leaders:  
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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

Pick your Social Media vehicle and follow us by clicking on the icon below:

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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

Should Non-Political Brands ever get Political during these Politically Divided Times?

“Republicans Buy Shoes Too”

 Michael Jordan

UnknownThe last few years, we’ve seen a divide in politics–bigger than we’ve seen in generations.  In the US, it would be safe to say the country is equally divided between democrats and republicans, with about 10-20% acting as the swing vote.  There are so many issues that divide us–our views on marriage, guns, taxes, education, healthcare, race, immigration, religion, the environment, war and the list is growing.  There are red states and blue states.  The most loyal of the Democrats and Republicans are each digging in deeper.  Around the world, we are seeing the same divide, variations different issues.  

Now, if your entire brand is about healthcare, I get that you should have a position anything to do with healthcare.  1112_no-republican-democratic-politicsIf your about an environmental brand, of course you should have a position on global warming, energy efficiency and oil drilling.  And if your a bank, being outspoken on debt, tax rates and the interest rate is well within your realm.  

But if you are selling organic groceries, fried chicken, washing machines or laptops, you’d be really stupid as a brand to pick a side and speak out.  I love politics, but I love making money even more.  If there is a chance you could lose 45% of your audience, or even 10% because you think it’s important for you to share your political conscience, then terrific.  Give up the reins of being a Brand Leader, grab a sign and find a spot on the grass.  

  • The comments regarding support of traditional marriage by Chick-Fil-A’s president Dan Cathy caused a political uproar that definitely had an impact on brand perception.  Marketingland noted that the positive brand image that Chick-Fil-A once took for granted was dealt an almost fatal blow and the BrandIndex score in the northeast US for Chick-Fil-A fell from a 76 down to a 35.  Chick-Fil-A responded to this disaster by backing entirely out of media comments and distancing the company’s position from the personal opinions of Dan Cathy. But the damage to the brand was cemented when Sarah Palin lined up to get her chicken wings.

Elle s'appelait sarah" (2009) 

  • John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, is dealing with a huge backlash from customers of the upscale supermarket chain who have been angered by his recent comments likening Obamacare to fascism.  Mackey, who made the comments during an interview promoting a book on capitalism, has since tried to walk back his more inflammatory statements, explaining he was talking about fascism in economic terms, not as a system of repression under the Third Reich.  Obama supporters, many of whom love Whole Foods, turned on the brand with comments on Twitter, Facebook and any blog they could find.  UnknownI’ve seen John Mackey on CNN trying to retract comments.  I’d suggest he get himself a Communications VP and never talk into a microphone again.  
  • Donald Trump has been one of the most outspoken celebrities in the political area, many times embarrassing himself rather than offering the voice of the right.  The Apprentice, once a top 10 show finished 113th last year, with ratings falling from 20 Million people down to 4.5 Million.

1097579Not only is it dumb to divide your market in half, it’s also arrogant to think we care about your view.  Just because you are running a successful Brand, doesn’t mean your view matters.  

Maybe we could all learn a lesson from Big Bird.  Even as he was brought into the political debate by a slip of the tongue by Mitt Romney, what did Big Bird and the rest of Sesame Street decide to do with their new found attention.   They stayed quiet.  That was the smartest political move they could make.  After all, republican kids watch Big Bird and Elmo. 

In terms of Politics, Brands would be better off just staying silent.
 

Here’s a summary on Creating a Beloved Brand

 

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

Pick your Social Media vehicle and follow us by clicking on the icon below:

linkedin-groups-large             images-1              facebook-logo

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.

How to Drive Innovation into Your Brand

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Patent Office,  1899

Brand LeadershipWhile that quote from 114 years ago may have missed out on the airplane, radio, TV, microwave, car, computer, internet, nearly every cpg product and of course my beloved iPhone.  Maybe the sentiment of the quote was just about 100 years too early.  In the last decade, most of the great innovation has been relegated to social media and electronics.  I hope this century brings us much more than just Facebook, BBM and Twitter.  In the consumer goods area, we must be on the 197th version of “new” cherry flavoured bubble gum since 1955, we’ve now seen hundreds of “new” peach yoghurt and I hope I never see another “new” laundry soap telling us that their little blue beads get their clothes really clean.  

Generating Love for the Brand

Under the Brand Idea 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.  Everyone wants to debate what makes a great brand–whether it’s the product, the advertising, the experience or through consumers.  It is not just one or the other–it’s the collective connection of all these things that make a brand beloved.

  1. The brand’s promise sets up the positioning, as you focus on a key target with one main benefit you offer.  Brands need to be either better, different or cheaper.  Or else not around for very long.  “Me-too” brands have a short window before being squeezed out.  How relevant, simple and compelling the brand positioning is impacts the potential love for the brand.
  2. The most beloved brands create an experience that over-delivers the promise.  How your culture and organization are set up can make or break that experience.  Hiring the best people, creating service values that employees can deliver against and having processes that eliminate service leakage.  The culture attacks the brand’s weaknesses and fixes them before the competition can attack.  With a Beloved Brand, the culture and brand become one.
  3. Brands also make focused strategic choices that start with identifying where the brand is on the Brand Love Curve going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and all the way to Beloved status.   Marketing is not just activity, but rather focused activity–based on strategy with an ROI mindset.  Where you are on the curve might help you make strategic and tactical choices such as media, innovation and service levels.
  4. The most beloved brands have a freshness of innovation, staying one-step ahead of the consumers.  The idea of the brand helps acting as an internal beacon to help frame the R&D.  Every new product has to back that idea.  At Apple, every new product must deliver simplicity and at Volvo, it must focus on safety.  .
  5. Beloved brands can tell the brand story through great advertising in paid media, through earned media either in the mainstream press or through social media.  Beloved Brands use each of these media choices to connect with consumers and have a bit of magic to their work.

 

New Products can help separate a brand as well as keep it fresh.  For a Beloved Brand, freshness is essential in attacking your own brand before someone can attack you.  New products that truly solve a consumer problem in a unique way are rare.  This is the generation of marketing incrementalism.  On most brand plans I see “launch innovative new products”  sits comfortably in the #3, 4 or 5 slot on the plan, while #1 is fix the advertising and #2 is get more distribution.  

Stages of Innovation

There are four key stages to innovation:  1) Invention 2) Differentiation 3) Experience and 4) Perception.  And the marketing is different at each phase.

Stage 1: Invention of the Core Product:  The challenge of a truly new product is to finding something that is truly different: a new technology, delivery, format or process.   Rarely, do we get to work on a game changing “invention”.  
Stage 1 of a new product usually focuses all of their efforts on launching and explaining why it is needed.  The product at this stage is usually just the core product, not yet perfected, higher costs and limited sales with no profits.   The advertising is about awareness and the message is simple:  you have this problem, we solve that problem.   There’s an effort to the distribution, because many customers are risk averse and afraid of new products.   Consumers are willing to pay a little more to solve the problem, they overlook all the flaws and limitations, and they think “why didn’t I think of this”.  While some consumers love the new product already, most consumers still sit at the sceptical and indifferent stage.  

Stage 2: Product Proliferation means Differentiation:  With a little bit of success in the market comes copy cats.  With more consumers buying, there becomes room for some differentiation, but mostly limited to product still:  new features and added services on top of the core product.  They might have found a way to make things cheaper, easier to use or better tasting.  Prices come down and brands offer more variety.  Distribution becomes a battle ground and getting full distribution becomes the goal.  Customers try to line up behind certain brands–looking for preferential treatment.  The advertising is about consideration and purchase, trying to stake out certain spaces, shifting from product to brand and separating your brand from others. Brands now sell the solution, not just the product.  And consumers start to choose, one brand over another.  While some consumers prefer one brand over another, most consumers are at the like it stage.

Stage 3: It’s all about the Experience:  In order to establish leadership or challenge for leadership, brands begin to talk about the experience consumers will have with their product.  It becomes no longer about the brand or product but about the consumer and how your brand fits into their life.  Brands look to use positioning strategies to separate themselves, focusing on key targets, with unique benefits–a balance of emotional and rational benefits.  Advertising brings the consumer front and centre, trying to establish a routine with your brand in it.  Brands try to move to the love it stage, some do, but most will be stuck still at the like it stage.  Those that get stuck are forced into value and focusing on price, promotions or value.  The brands that reach the love it stage can command a premium, drive share  and establish leadership in the category.

Stage 4:  Managing the Perception:  As the market matures, any share point movements become difficult to gain any traction on real quality so the shift moves to perceived quality.  Strategy shifts to brand personality where tone and manner in the execution are paramount so that Consumers connect with the brand and begin to see themselves in the brand.   Brands push to become a Beloved Brand, where demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings and Consumers become outspoken fans.  The brand becomes powerful, with power over distribution because consumers would switch stores before they switch brands and power over competitors who are stuck trying to establish their own point of difference.  Profits are at their highest–revenue, margins are both strong and spending is focused and efficient on maintaining the relationship.  While at the top of the mountain, with firm leadership in the category, the brand is always at risk of losing that leadership.  Challenge yourself to continuously stay at the top.  Avoid becoming complacent.

Ask Gap Clothing, Cadillac, IBM computers, Levis, Sony or Kodak who have each reached the Beloved Stage only to be replaced by new products and brands and moved back down the love curve towards Indifferent.  Most recently, Blackberry.  Only 18 months ago, people jokingly used the term “crackberry” to describe their addictions.  No longer.

The four stages can easily be matched up to the Brand Love Curve and help establish strategic focus for the brand.  At the Invention stage, consumers remain indifferent until you build awareness and explain how your product solves a problem in my life.  At the Differentiation stage, some like it, but you are now facing proliferation and attack forcing your brand to stake out a claim.  At the experience stage, you need to become part of your consumers life and balance the emotional and rational benefits that can move you to the love it stage.  And finally, you have to tightly manage the Perceptions to become that Beloved Brand for Life stage, it’s about connecting with consumers so they see themselves through your brand.   You need to establish your personality and begin to wield the power of being a Beloved Brand.

But be careful: Without Innovation, very few brands remain at the top for very long.   

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

For a presentation on how to write a Positioning Statement, follow:

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 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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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.

How to Judge Advertising Copy: Approve the Good. Reject the Bad.

Over the years, I’ve seen so many Brand Leaders who love Advertising, yet just don’t love their own advertising.  

I’ve always found this odd.  These Brand Leaders use their instincts on other brands’ work but can’t find those same instincts on their own work.  They are likely the ones sending Super Bowl ads around the office, yet they are the first to crap all over the work of their own agency.  

What really holds back most Brand Leaders from greatness is they actually under-estimate their own role in the process of getting to great advertising.  How they show up does more to make or break an ad than even how the agency shows up.   slide1-1After all, the Brand Leader gets the “final say” on every aspect of the ad–brief, script, director, casting, music, budget and final edit.  The agency can only recommend.  What the Brand Leader does with that “final say” can make or break the ad.  

If you knew that how you show up to your agency got better work for you, do you think you would show up differently?

In terms of giving feedback at that first creative meeting, a Brand Leader can really only do three things.

      1. Approve an ad
      2. Reject an Ad
      3. Give direction on how to make the Ad better 

If you’re sitting in the hot seat, how will you know?  It’s not easy to sit in the hot seat as the decision maker.  I’ve seen some Brand Leaders use all instinct, and no fundamentals.  They miss the most basic of things.  While other Brand Leaders strictly use fundamentals and forget to use their instincts.  They miss the magic or are the first to put together a Frankenstein from various things on the brief.  

Clients aren’t Ready

I come at this discussion from the client side.  I’ve never worked at an agency in my life.  But I have 20 years of CPG experience and have been in the shoes of the Brand Leader at every level.  I feel comfortable to say that Clients are not ready.    

Here’s the problem with the math.  Most brands make 1 campaign per year, and in your first 2-3 years as an Assistant Brand Manager, you might get a few comments in at the meeting. Then all of a sudden, you’re now the newly promoted Brand Manager and expected to lead the campaign.  As bright as you might be, you have never been on the hot seat and you might not be ready to give feedback to the agency.  Even your boss, who will coach you and judge your performance might have made 5 ads in their career.  Across from you sits a creative team, a creative director and a Group Account Director, who each might have 10+ years of experience and each work on 20+ campaigns per year.  

And what you have to say at the meeting will make or break your ad.  If you aren’t nervous at that meeting, good for you.  And good luck.  Because, you should be nervous. 

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How well prepared are you?  An ill prepared Brand Leader will more than likely deliver a poor ad.   How many hours of training have you had on giving direction to a creative team?   How many times did you role-play giving feedback to the agency?  How good was the coaching you received on your feedback?  Not only do you need the fundamentals through solid training, but you likely need someone coaching you through a role-playing exercise.  

How will you show up?  Are you ready?  Or will you just be another brilliant Brand Leader who can’t seem to make a great ad on their own brand?

Judging the Ad:

The Creative Meeting is not Easy.  You’ve got to balance, the head, the heart and the gut against the good of the brand.  Take your time and sort it through asking the following questions:

  1. Do you love what it can do for your brand?  If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it?  A great ad has to have everyone’s heart and soul put into it.  If you “sorta like” it, then it will be “sorta ok” in the end.  If you love it, you will fight for it.  (The Heart) 
  2. Is it on strategy?  Is the Advertisement an expression of what you have been writing in your strategy documents?   Is it doing what we hoped it would do?  I love the ABCS technique (outlined below) because it helps me to frame things in my mind, so I can evaluate it past how I feel.  I think you need something to ground yourself.  (The Head)  If  there is something in your gut says it’s off, it likely is.  (The Gut)
  3. Is it long-term Idea?  Is a big enough idea that fits with the brand, does the hard work you want to do for the brand and can last 5 years.  Think about leaving a legacy—which forces you to think of campaign-ability.  (The Brand)  Look at the Creative Brief and if the ad is not on strategy, then it has to be rejected   Advertising is an expression of strategy.  If it’s not on strategy, it has no value.  

I once was in the midst of fighting for an Ad campaign as it was going up through the approval ranks of my own senior management.  It was a very odd campaign.  Yet I loved it.  One night, I was out for a walk with my wife and she said “what if it gets rejected”.  And I said “it will be the end of me”.   She thought I was crazy and said “you can’t think that way”.  And I said “I have to think that way”.  The question of whether you love it or not, is not a “sort of” question.   You have to be all-in, ready to battle for it’s life.  If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love the brand?   The campaign was approved, and it doubled the business over the next 10 years.  

The ABC’S of Advertising 

Here’s a potential tool you can take into the room that is very easy to follow along.  You want to make sure that your ad delivers on the ABC’S which means it attracts  Attention, it’s about the Brand, it Communicates the brand story and Sticks in the consumers mind.  

  • Attention:  You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising.  Consumers see 6000 ads per day, and will likely only engage in a few.  If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
  • Branding:  Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best.  Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumers view of the brand.  It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits to the climax of the ad.
  • Communication:  Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
  • Stickiness:  Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time.   In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own.  Brands have exist in the minds of the consumer. 
Attention

Buying media and putting something on air does not attract attention for your ad.  Why would consumers want to listen to what you have to say.  You have to EARN the consumers’ attention.  The best way to grab Attention is to take a risk and do something not done before. Here are the 5 ways to attract attention.

  1. Be Incongruent:  This is a great technique to get noticed is by being a bit off kilter or different from what they are watching.  A lot of brand leaders are afraid of this, because they feel it exposes them.  Avoid being like “wallpaper”   If you want a high score on “made the brand seem different”, it starts with acting different.   kitkat
  2. Resonate:  Connect with the consumer in the true way that they see themselves or their truth about how they interact with the brand.
  3. Entertain them:  Strike the consumers emotional cord, by making them laugh, make them cry, or make them tingle.  From the consumers view—they interact with media to be entertained—so entertain them.
  4. The Evolution of the Art of Being Different:  As much as Movies,  TV music continues to evolve, so do ads. As much as your art has to express your strategy, it needs to reflect the trends of society to capture their attention.  Albino fruit flies mate at twice the rate of normal fruit flies.  Be an albino fruit fly!!!
  5. Location Based:  Be where Your consumers are open and willing to listen.  The Media choice really does impact attention.  Make sure your creative makes the most of that media choice.  
Branding

There is an old advertising saying “half of all advertising is wasted, but we aren’t sure which half”.  Coincidently, the average brand link is 50%.  Our goal should always be to get higher.  The best Branding comes when you connect the Brand to the Climax of the ad.   It’s not about how much branding or how early the branding arrives.  

  1. Be Part of the Story:  in the spirit of big ideas, how do you tell a story, using your brand.  It’s not how much branding you use, but rather how closely connected the brand to the climax of your ad.
  2. Is it the Truth:  It sounds funny, but if there is a disconnect between what you say, and what you are….then the brand link won’t be there.  People will discard the ad.
  3. Own the Idea Area:  Be a bit different—make sure that what you do sets you apart from anyone else. 
  4. Repeat:  don’t be afraid of building your brand—and the simplest way to get branding is to repeat and repeat and repeat.
Communication

Communicating is about selling.  Keep in mind, communication is not what is said, but what is heard.  The best way to Communicate is through Story Telling that involves the brand.  The modern-day world of the internet allows richness in story telling.  

  1. Start a Dialogue:  If you can do a good job in connecting with the consumer, the branding idea can be a catalyst that enables you to converse with your consumer.
  2. What are you Selling?  You have to keep it simple—you only have 29 seconds to sell the truth.  Focus on one message…keep asking yourself “what are we selling”.drill
  3. Powerful Expression:  try to find one key visual that can express what you are selling.  This visual can be leveraged throughout
  4. Find Your “More Cheese”:  Many times its so obvious what people want, but we just can’t see it or articulate it. 
  5. Sell the Solution—not the Problem:  Brands get so wrapped up in demonstrating the problem, when really it is the solution that consumers want to buy. 
Stickiness

We all want our ads to stick.  You need to adopt a mindset of “will this idea last for 5 years”.  The Best way to Stick is to have an idea that is big enough.  You should sit there and say is this a big idea or just an ad?

  1. Dominant Characteristic:  things that are memorable have something that dominates your mind (e.g.:  the red-head kid)
  2. How Big Is the Idea?  Its proven that a gold-fish will get bigger with a bigger bowl.  The same for ideas.
  3. Telling Stories:   While visuals are key to communicating, in the end people remember stories—that’s how we are brought up—with ideas and morals that are designed to stick. 
  4. Always Add A Penny:  With each execution, you have a chance to add something to the branding idea.  Avoid duplicating what you’ve done…and try to stretch as much as you can. 
  5. Know Your Assets:  There has to be something in your ad that stick Know what that is and then use it, in new executions or in other parts of the marketing mix.

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If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your Brand.

To see a training presentation on Get Better Advertising: 

 

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


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

Ads with Strong Brand Link

It’s always easier to judge everyone else’s advertising than when you are on the hot seat and judging the ads on your own brand.  I’ve been there 100s of times, and I still find it very difficult. You try to balance having it be a good ad, jamming in all the messaging you want and still maintaining enough branding so that it pays off for the brand.

The tool I use for judging ads is the ABC’S.  The best ads attract Attention (A) are about the Brand (B)Communicate the brand’s story (C) and they Stick in people’s minds (S)

  • Attention:  You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising.  If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
  • Branding:  Ads that are about the brand will link.  The balance is to have it be about the consumers view of the brand.  It’s not the amount of branding, but the climax to where the brand fits in.
  • Communication:  Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story.  Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
  • Stickiness:  In the end, brands are really about “consistency”.  They exist in the minds of the consumer.  Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time

So let’s focus on the BRANDING part.  How do we ensure high brand link scores?  The 4 simple ways to brand your spot are:

  1. Be Part of the Story: In the spirit of big ideas, how do you tell a story, using your brand. It’s not how much branding you use, or how early you bring the brand name in, but rather how closely connected the brand to the climax of your ad.
  2. Is it the Truth: It sounds funny, but if there is a disconnect between what you say, and what you are….then the brand link won’t be there. People will discard the ad.   But ads that are hitting that truth zone really nail the brand link.  This starts with your creative brief to make sure it connects with what people think about the brand.
  3. Own the Idea Area: Be a bit different—make sure that what you do sets you apart from anyone else.  Not only does the difference help you stand out, it helps you to own it over time.  Within your category or your market, make sure that it doesn’t feel like a copy-cat ad.   “Me Too” = “Me” diocre.
  4. Repeat: Don’t be afraid of building your campaign—and the simplest way to get branding is to repeat and repeat and repeat.  So many great campaigns have built them over 5-10 yeas.  As you’re in the creative room, sit there and say “can I see this lasting for 5 years?  Is the idea big enough?”

Here are some brands that do a good job in driving Brand Link:

Google “Parisian Love”

Google’s first and only TV was a pure beauty.  Google is part of the story, in fact it’s the facilitator of every part of the story.  And for creative people that hate demos, this is just a demo!   All this ad does is showcase how using this product can make your life better, showing how often we now reach for Google as a support to everything we now do.  The beauty of this ad is they were able take the searches into such an emotional space.  Whenever you do an interesting demonstration of how your brand really works, the brand link will be very high.  The new great idea is to create an Ad that will be passed on.  Aired once during the Super Bowl, it’s been passed around emails and viewed on youtube millions of time.  In fact, there are hundreds of parody ads as well which shows the power of the idea.  

Listerine “Bottle Guy”

I’m sneaking another one of mine in here.  Listerine ads are hard to make interesting–it’s a very serious brand in a low interest category, it’s clinical with information to deliver and how can you make gingivitis interesting.  This campaign idea lasted 10 years, and had brand link scores of 85-97%.  People would dress up as Listerine at Halloween and when we brought the Bottle Guy to events, we had people lined up to get their photo taken with him.  These ads were kind of crazy–but so different that they stood out.  With such a high brand link and stickiness already embedded in the idea, we could dedicate all our attention to driving the message–a new message about healthier gums.  Truth be told, I wasn’t sure whether it would work or whether I’d be quickly fired.  But it was sure fun finding out–and Listerine grew over 10% for the next 10 years.   

Wheat Thins “Wheat Thins”

Imagine a creative idea that just says the brand name over and over again.  For those with a quirky sense of humour, this one works.   For an impulse driven brand, Wheat Thins aired these spots 5 minutes into football games last year.  Just how popcorn does ads at the beginning of a Movie, this media buy likely made a few people think about Wheat Thins for the next hour before they finally got up, went to their kitchens and grabbed the box.  It worked on me.  I kept saying “wheat thins” the rest of the day.  

Apple:  “Mac vs PC”

Mac took such a simple concept of the side-by-side demonstration and made it compelling and ownable.  In terms of repeating, Mac must have made hundreds of these, all great and all consistent to the same tone and message.  Part of the brilliance is they never shifted too far from the big idea and yet found room to continuously surprise and delight their loyal following.  So many creative teams presented the “apple” style ads after those ads, but in reality, Apple owned any two guys standing side-by-side.  

For more reading on the ABC’s, view the following presentation:

Or read an article on being An Advertising Leader.


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/