How to lead a motivating Year End Review for Brand Leaders

BBI Learning LogoThe better the people, the better the work and in the end the better the results. 

As we come up on the year-end, it’s that time of year when we nervously sit down with our bosses and find out how the year went.  For most of us, it’s one of the most dreaded parts of the job, for both those delivering and receiving the news.  But helping to grow our people is one of the most essential parts of the Leader.  No matter how good your strategy or product is, without the greatness of your people you’ll never achieve the results you want.  We all have gaps and we should all be working on closing those gaps.  Performance Feedback is an essential role in the growth of our people.  But without pointing those gaps out and coming up with a plan, then the person will never really improve.

A challenge to you: if there are any surprises during the meeting, then you as a leader are not doing your job.  As the VP of Marketing at Johnson and Johnson, I had one-on-one quarterly performance check ins with all my direct reports.  And when I realized that my directs weren’t following my lead, I made the Quarterly Review process mandatory for everyone on the marketing team.  It’s my belief that marketers can grow faster than we think–but they can only grow with timely feedback.  Those quarterly meetings were honest and informal discussions–which made the year-end review very easy.  I also emailed out the written review document 48 hours ahead of time, giving people the chance to digest all the thoughts and to come prepared ready to discuss each point.

As a Marketing Leadership Team, we spent our greatest efforts around managing the people. We talked people performance in every one of our weekly meetings.  The directors were encouraged to bring up people examples of those who were shining and those who were struggling.  If one of the other leaders were not familiar with those that were shining, we’d set up a process or special project where they could become more aware.  We ranked everyone on the team once a year plus a mid-year check in on the rankings.  You have to be diligent in managing your team.

Skills, Behaviours and Experiences

Marketing Skills: Brand Leaders should be measured on the Core Marketing Skills.  Below, I’ve outlined a Checklist of 30 Core Skills for a Brand Leader that can be used to highlight potential gaps that some of our Brand Leaders may have.  These 30 core skills fall under the areas of:

  • Analytics
  • Brand Planning
  • Briefs
  • Advertising
  • New Products & Claims
  • Go-To-Market
  • Leadership
  • Management

You can use this checklist in a few different ways:  1) to see if someone is meeting the needs of the current job–it could be used to set someone up for a performance improvement plan or as a motivation to push themselves 2) for someone who is close to ready for promotion, but you want to close on a few specific areas before the promotion or 3) for your personal assessment to see what you want to work on.

The rating should compare against their peers.  It helps to highlight skill gaps where people should focus their attention.  Any scores in the 1 or 2 are concerning and need an action plan.  The gap could arise because it’s outside of their natural skills or it could just be because it’s been outside of their experience they’ve had.  It’s tough to be good at advertising until  you’ve worked on a brand with advertising.

Leadership Skills:  Below, I’ve outlined a Checklist of 12 Leader Behaviours of Brand Leaders that can be used to highlight potential gaps that some of our Brand Leaders may have.  These 12 leader behaviours fall under the areas of:

  • Accountability to Results
  • People Leadership
  • Strategic Thinker
  • Broad Influence
  • Authentic Style

In the Leader Behaviour space, we all have blind sides that we just can’t see.  This is where the 360 degree feedback can help people to see how they are showing up.  I know that as a Director, I was a Driver-Driver that caused me to have behaviour gaps around Influence and Style.  I had the attitude of “it’s my way or the highway” and I wasn’t getting what I needed from the strategy and accountability I was hoping for.  Once I was able to identify it and work on it, I was able to see a big improvement in my performance and the results started to pay off as well.   Without closing that gap when I was a director, I would not have been promoted and would have honestly been unable to lead the entire marketing team.

Experience:  Many of our gaps as Brand Leaders comes from not having the experience.  When managing others, expect quite a few mistakes in the first few and you might not get fully there until your 5th direct report. When sitting in the hot seat of advertising, you’ll start to realize just how complex it can be–you’ve got to stay on brief, keep the creative team motivated, make judgement calls at every stage of the process and keep your own management on side.  And at every level, you’ll start to notice that the pressure gets higher–whether it’s push for results, the ambiguity or meeting deadlines through your team.  Each of these takes experience.

With  your best people, make sure you identify the experience gaps they have and be fair to them with the next assignment.  It’s far too easy to keep relying on a person’s strengths but it’s more important that you round out that person’s experience.  If they advance too far without covering off those gaps, they may find themselves struggling later in the job.  I’ve known newly promoted directors who had very little advertising experience coming up that all of a sudden found themselves on a desk with lots of advertising.  Their team even had more experience than they did.  Regular people reviews can really help identify the experience gaps that people might have. 

 

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 do training on all skill levels of marketing, and we provide coaching for leaders wanting to improve.  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. 

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

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 train you to be a better brand leader.
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How strategy can help Start Ups to Start Right

Slide1Entrepreneurs are a different breed.  They have an energy, that has them running full blast with no time to spare.  They have a determination to push as hard as they can to find funding, patents, production and customers.  They are willing to do what it takes and will work to nail down every possible detail on their own.  It’s exhaustive.  And yet, until they sell something they have no revenue to cover all their effort and costs.  All they have is optimism and hope.

I run my own business.  Every day I face the same issues you face.  

Entrepreneurs face a ton of pressure.  Every friend I meet up with that asks about “starting my own business”, I explain what it’s like, I pause and look them right in the eye and say “it’s not for everyone”.  I don’t say that to discourage them, but rather allow them to keep thinking.  I mean seriously:  a real entrepreneur would just snicker at that comment.

The biggest obstacle is dealing with the pressure.

How you handle that pressure helps to sort out whether you’ll be successful or not.  You have to stay focused on the vision you have for your business.   While there are “revenue temptations”, once you deviate off your path it’s harder to get back on that path.  Stay focused.

It’s the Idea that counts

It seems to me that most entrepreneurs love watching the “Shark Tank” or “Dragon’s Den”.  While it’s reality TV, it’s good entertainment.  It provides one great lesson.  The winners have an IDEA, beyond just a product.  Yes, the product is essential, but if you don’t know who you are, what you can do, who you can serve and how you can serve them, then you will fail.  

When I started my business, one of my mentors said “what are you selling” and my answer was “I’m selling me”. His answer floored me when he said “well then I’m not buying, because I don’t know you and I only buy ideas”.  Three weeks later, I came back with the idea of Beloved Brands, and how I would help leaders find more love for their brand, because I can clearly lay out the path from how loved a brand is to how powerful it is and from that power it can make more money.  A simple equation:  Love = Power = Profit.   While no one wants to buy Graham Robertson, every business leader wants a pathway to making more money.

Most successful brands in history started off as a product that solves a rational problem in the consumers’ life.  It’s very likely that the entrepreneur sold the product directly to customers.  Over time, they created a logo, narrowed down on a promise based on what was working, they executed better than the competition and gravitated towards creating some type of experience.  After a while, the consumer took all this marketing stuff and determined the Idea of the brand.  The second generation of the entrepreneur had to do market research to figure out what came naturally to the entrepreneur.  And when they figured it out, they realized as the brand become more loved along the way, the brand become an idea that fulfills consumers’ emotional needs.

Slide1

To me, a beloved brand is an idea that’s worth Loving.  As a brand generates more love, it gains a positional power versus market forces.  It can leverage that power to drive higher rates of growth and higher profits.

But that’s the history of brands.  So why not learn from history, and instead of slowly evolving towards an idea, why not just start there and own the evolution, and matching up that logo, promise, execution and experience to the idea.

Get to the idea faster.  And you’ll be able to sell that idea with your product.  So, what’s your idea?

Be Strategic

Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions.  They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out.  They reflect and plan before they act.   They are thinkers and planners who can see connections.  Slide1Non 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.

My challenge to all entrepreneurs is while it’s tempting to push hard, you have to stay strategic.  Don’t get into the situation where your feet are moving faster than your brain.

Start Up the Right Way

When you decide to go out on your own, you might be starting with some random product you came up with.  But now you need a vision of where you want to go.  As Yogi Berra said “if you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there”.

Why are you doing this?  Push yourself to start with what’s in you:  The most successful brands start with a purpose driven vision (why) and match the strategies (how) and the execution (what) to the vision.

What does success look like?  Think of your Vision as an end in mind Achievement towards your purpose.  What do you want the brand to become?  Think 10 years out: if you became this one thing, you would know that you are successful.  Ideally it is Qualitative (yet grounded in something) and quantitative (measurable)  It should be motivating and enticing to get people focused.   It should be personal and speak to why you get up in the morning—why you got into this business.

I always like to say “if you woke up on January 1st, 2020 and things on your brand were going well, tell me the 3-5 things that you’d quickly point to as part of that success”.   It’s a big huge goal.

Focus! Focus! Focus! Focus!

Yes, I’m empathetic to the entrepreneur who is facing zero revenues and sees that “revenue temptation” in front of them.  It’s ok to go for it, but quickly get back on track.  Think of it like a quick detour or hobby.  But you have to stay focused.

A good entrepreneur knows who they are selling to, what they are selling, how to sell it and what activities are the best choices. And they don’t deviate.

There are four areas you need to focus:

  • Pick a focused Target Market:  While it’s tempting to sell to everyone.  Focus your resources on those most likely to buy. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focus on those that can love you.
  • Pick a focused Brand Positioning:  Start with the target market you just picked, and assess their need states to see where you can best match up. Beloved Brands are either better, different or cheaper. Or they are not around for much longer.Slide1
  • Pick a Focused Strategy:  Brands need to understand where they sit before picking strategies.  Evaluate the health of your brand using the Brand Funnel to understand where you are strong and should keep pushing or where you have a weakness (a Leak) that you need to close.
  • Focused Activities:  While everyone talks ROI, I talk ROE as well.  Return on Effort forces you to prioritize all your activities.

Stay aligned to your plan, and don’t be tempted away from your focus.  When you focus, five things happen.

  1. Better ROI:   With all the resources against one strategy, one target, one message, you’ll be find out if the strategy you’ve chose is able to actually move consumers drive sales or other key performance indicators.
  2. Better ROE:  Make the most out of your people resources.
  3. Strong Reputation:  When you only do one thing, you naturally start to become associated with that one thing—externally and even internally.  And, eventually you become very good at that one thing.
  4. More Competitive:  As your reputation grows, you begin to own that on thing and your are able to better defend the positioning territory
  5. Bigger and Better P&L:  As the focused effort drives results, it opens up the P&L with higher sales and profits.  And that means more resources will be put to the effort to drive even higher growth.

At Beloved Brands, we run a one day workshop called “Start Up and Start Right”.  It allows you to gain your focus, which makes it easier to articulate your brand’s idea, whether using that to selling your idea into customers or gaining investors to back your idea.  Both customers and investors see thousands of ideas every year.  Just like “THe Shark Tank” and “Dragon’s Den”, they need to see an idea, they need to see someone who is well-organized behind a plan that will be successful.  Not many will succeed if they are sloppy and all over the place.  They buy the idea!  As a fellow entrepreneur, I know what you’re facing and would love to help get you started in the right direction.  For more information, click on this link:  Start Up Start Right

So, Let’s Get Started

 

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

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

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 about how the Start Up Start Right program can help you

How to Run a Brainstorm Session

“Creativity is intelligence having fun”  Albert Einstein

Brand LeadershipBrainstorming should be a Regular Part of running your Brand.

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

There are advantages to having regular brainstorms:

  • Team will stay fresh and open.  Brand jobs can eat you up, forecasting, deadlines, reports can all make you stale.  Having regular intervals of ideation, helps to disrupt the work flow to motivate and engage the team.
  • Keeps the best ideas near the surface.  At the end of a good brainstorm, you have some great ideas that bubble up, not all of which you can immediately use.  These ideas tend to keep coming up, and that’s OK  Sometimes they are rejected because they are higher risk or resource dependent.  But after a few sessions of getting comfortable with these ideas, you might start to see new ways to make them do-able instead of seeing why they can’t happen.slide125
  • As the Leader of the team, it sends the message that while we are strategic, we win by being more creative, faster, and better on execution. It’s so easy to get stiffer as you move up the career ladder and be the one on the team finding fault with every idea.  Just because you are starting to know right from wrong, doesn’t mean you need to crush every idea.  Having the brainstorming forum allows the newly experienced brand people the chance to bring ideas forward and it sends the signal that you are an open leader and you value the opinions of your junior staff.
  • The process the team learns doing the brainstorms becomes part of their everyday job.   Even on small problems, they’ll come up with a list of possible solutions, use some criteria to judge, narrow down the list to the best idea, and then be prepared with their recommendation.  They’ll be able to show their leader they’ve looked at the issue from all sides, and considered other ideas.  Marketers that fixate on one solution to fix the problem tend to fail more than succeed.
The Warm Up

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

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

The trick to a good brainstorm is very simple:   Diverge, Converge, Diverge Converge.
Diverge #1:

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

Converge #1:

There’s a few ways you can do this.

  • You can use voting dots where each person gets 5 or 10 dots and they can use them any way they want.  For random executional ideas, this is a great simple way.
  • If there is agreed upon criteria, you can do some type of scoring against each criteria.  High, medium, low.
  • USP 2.0If you are brainstorming product concepts or positioning statements, you might want to hold them up to the lens of how unique they are.
  • For things like naming, positioning or promotions, the leader can look at all the ideas and begin grouping them into themes.  They might start to discuss which themes seem to fit or are working the best, and use those themes for a second diverge.
  • For Tactics to an annual plan, you can use a very simple grid of Big vs Small and Easy vs Difficult.  In this case, you want to find ways to land in THE BIG EASY.  The reason you want easy is to ensure it has a good return on effort, believing effort and investment have a direct link.  

Slide1

Diverge #2

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

  • If you narrowed it to themes, then take each theme and push for more and better ideas under each of the themes  
  • If you looked at concepts or tactics, then take the best 8-10 ideas and have groups work on them and flush them out fully with a written concept, and come back and present them to the group.  
  • If using the grid above, then take the ideas in the big/difficult and brainstorm ways to make it easier.   And if it’s small and easy, brainstorm ways to make it bigger.
Converge #2:  Decision Time

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

Turn the Idea into a Project

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

  • assign an owner and support team
  • get them to agree upon goals, issues to resolve
  • get them to map out a timeline (milestones)
  • outline potential resource needs (budget, people, outside agencies)

Let Brainstorming bring an energy and passion into your work.

“Love what you do”  Steve Jobs

 

 

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

 
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  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  3. 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 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:

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  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  3. 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 http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.

How to Manage your Marketing Career from ABM to CMO

Brand LeadershipAt every level you have to adjust to the new role.  Brand Managers fail when they keep acting like ABMs and Directors fail when they keep acting like Brand Managers and VPs fail when they don’t know what to do.  In a classic marketing team, the four key roles are Assistant Brand Manager up to Brand Manager then up to Marketing Director and on to the VP Marketing role.

Marketing Roles by Level

In simple terms of each of the roles, here’s a how to for all four levels:

  • Assistant Brand Manager:  It’s about doing; analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.  It’s not an easy job and only 50% get promoted to Brand Manager.  To read a story on how to be successful as an ABM, click on the following hyper link:  How to be a Successful ABM and get Promoted
  • Brand Manager:  It becomes about ownership and strategic thinking within your brand plan.  Most Brand Managers are honestly a disaster with their first direct report, and get better around the fifth report.  The good ones let the ABM do their job; the bad ones jump in too much, frustrated and impatient rather than acting as a teacher.  To read about being a successful Brand Manager, read:  How to be a Successful Brand Manager
  • Marketing Director:  It’s more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing.  Your role is to set the standard and then hold everyone to that standard.  To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best.  Let your best people shine, grow and push you.  Follow this hyper link to read more:   How to be a Successful Marketing Director
  • VP Marketing or CMO:  It’s about leadership, vision and getting the most from people.  If you are good at it, you won’t need to do any marketing, other than challenging and guiding your people to do their best work. You have to deliver the results, and very few figure out the equation that the better the people means the better the work and in the end the better the results. Invest in training as a way to motivate your team and keep them engaged.  Use teaching moments to share your wisdom. Read the following article for how to be a success:  How to be a Successful VP of Marketing

One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve which shows up at every level.  The basic rule of the Idiot Curve is: You get dumber before you get smarter.     When you first land the ABM job, there’s just so much to learn, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day.  It’s over-whelming at first, and yet you see all these other ABMs doing it so that’s even more intimidating.  But the idiot curve is inevitable.   It just shows up differently for each person.  No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve.  (But, please fight through the curve; you have to for your survival)  The Idiot Curve normally lasts up to 3 months, and then things just start to click.   And you’ll experience it in a new and exciting way you can’t even predict. 

But the Idiot Curve shows up again in the first few months of each level.  In the first few months as a Brand Manager, they keep doing the ABM role because that’s what they know.  They frustrate the hell out of their ABM.  They keep recommending and acting small rather than start deciding and stepping up to the leadership role.  At the Director role, they continue to be the Brand Manager.  They get nervous where they shouldn’t, whether it’s with senior people in other functions or even within marketing.  They prefer to keep doing, and in those moment there is nothing “to do”, they walk around and start doing other people’s jobs.  At the VP level,the first few months are lonely as you no longer have peers you can bounce ideas off.  Your peers assume you can do the job, and they don`t want to hear your problems.  At each level, you secretly feel like an Idiot.   You don’t want it to show, but in a way, you should use it to your advantage.

Marketing Values for All Levels

There are core marketing values you should instill and use throughout your career:

  1. Be Consumer Focused:  Everything Starts and Ends With the Consumer in Mind.  Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and think like them.  Steve Jobs said he never needed research, but he must have been amazing at listening, observing and anticipating how the consumer would react.  I’d still recommend you do research, but go beyond the statistics of the research and learn how your consumer thinks.  Whenever I go to focus groups, I watch their faces.  And when the research results come back you always have to ask “so now what do we do”.  The research helps you, but never gives you the exact answer.  Match up the needs of the consumer to your brand assets to figure out your ideal brand positioning.  The best marketers represent the consumer to the brand, NOT the brand to the consumer.  I always believe that consumers are selfish and deservedly so because they have money to spend.  As a consumer, I don’t care what you do until you care about what I need.  Focus on them, not on you.
  2. Follow Your Instincts:  Gut Feel of Marketing:  Listen to your inner thoughts, they are in there.   Too many times people fail because “they went along with it even though they didn’t like it”.  The problem is that sometimes your instincts are hidden away.  You get confused, you feel the pressure to get things done and you’ve got everyone telling you to go for it.  You get scared because you’re worried about getting promoted and want to do the ‘right thing’.  But your gut is telling you it’s just not right.  My rule is simple:  if you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand.  The worst type of marketer is someone who says “I never liked the brief” or “I never liked the ad”.  If you blame your agency or team after the fact, I have a word for people like you:  ”useless”.
  3. Revel in Ambiguity:  Be Patient with Ideas.  Never be afraid of an idea and never kill it quickly.  Watch the signals you send that make suck the creativity out of your team.   If you become too predictable to your team, then your work in the market will also become predictable.  Ambiguity and time pressure usually work against each other.  Don’t ever settle for “ok” just because of a deadline.  Always push for great.  What I have found is the longer I can stay comfortable in the “ambiguity zone” the better the ideas get whether it’s the time pressure that forces our thinking to be simpler or whether it’s the performance pressure forces us to push for our best idea, I always say, the longer I can hold my breath, the better the work gets.
  4. You Run the Brand, Don’t Let the Brand Run You: Be thoroughly organized, well planned and know the pulse of your business.  Every six months, I would find a quiet time to answer five key questions that would help me stay aware: 1) Where are we? 2) Why are we here? 3) Where could we be?  4) How can we get there? and 5) What do we have to do to get started?   In an odd way, the more planning you do, the more agile you’ll be, because you’ll know when it’s ok to “go off plan”  Stay in Control:  Hit the Deadlines, don’t give the appearance that you’re not in control. We have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other.  Know Your Business and don’t get caught off-guard.  Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.  Enjoy doing the monthly report because it makes you the most knowledgeable about the brand.   Stay conceptual; avoid getting stuck in the pennies or decimals.Process should enable us, not hinder us:  A good process can force your thinking towards a solution.  If it restricts your thinking, it’s not a good process.  But if it means, you free up your time for strategic thinking, instead of format thinking, we’ll move much faster.
  5. Be the Brand Leader not the FollowerThe more you keep your boss informed the more rope they may give you.   If they don’t know what you’re doing, they may clamp down and micro-manage you. . Ensure a policy of open communication with no surprises:  Make sure you keep your team informed and involved.  Keep senior management informed.  You must be the champion of the brand.  The best ideas are those that erupt out from the brand team–not from a top down perspective.  You have to be a self-starter that pushes your idea through the system, in the face of resistance or doubt.  And you will meet resistance from so many people in the system.  All the best work I ever did met a large degree of resistance.  You have to anticipate this and work through it.  One subtlety to ownership is your tone. When you don’t know something, speak in an “asking way” and openly seek out the wisdom and advice of your agency, your manager or your peers.  Put your ego aside and listen.  But equally, when you do know the answer, speak in a “telling way” that gets others to follow you, including senior management.
  6. Speed, Simplicity and Self Confidence:  a) Speed:  We don’t do things fast for the sake of it; we do things fast so we can take advantage of opportunities that have a window.  If you recognize an opportunity, realize that others are also recognizing the same opportunity.  So speed to market can enable you to win before they get there.  Also, doing things fast does not mean sloppy.  b) Simplicity: I’ve always said, “If you have a complex answer to something, odds are you are wrong”.  Keep it simple enough to explain, and so that the people who need to execute our ideas can really execute them.  c) Self Confidence:  As the brand leader, speak your mind.  After all, we are all just walking opinions.  Find a way within your leadership style to engage your team, agency or your boss in a debate to get to better answers.
Download White Paper on Careers in Marketing

**To download the Free Guide above, click on slideshare and at the top of the document you’ll see a Save/Download button.   
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:

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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 Lead a Performance Review for Brand Leaders

The better the people, the better the work and in the end the better the results. 

As we come up on the year-end, it’s that time of year when we nervously sit down with our bosses and find out how the year went.  For most of us, it’s one of the most dreaded parts of the job, for both those delivering and receiving the news.  But helping to grow our people is one of the most essential parts of the Leader.  No matter how good your strategy or product is, without the greatness of your people you’ll never achieve the results you want.  We all have gaps and we should all be working on closing those gaps.  Performance Feedback is an essential role in the growth of our people.  But without pointing those gaps out and coming up with a plan, then the person will never really improve.

A challenge to you: if there are any surprises during the meeting, then you as a leader are not doing your job.  As the head of Marketing at Johnson and Johnson, I had one-on-one quarterly performance check ins with all my direct reports.  And when I realized that my directs weren’t following my lead, I made the Quarterly Review process mandatory for everyone on the marketing team.  It’s my belief that marketers can grow faster than we think–but they can only grow with timely feedback.  Those quarterly meetings were honest and informal discussions–which made the year-end review very easy.  I also emailed out the written review document 48 hours ahead of time, giving people the chance to digest all the thoughts and to come prepared ready to discuss each point.

As a Marketing Leadership Team, we spent our greatest efforts around managing the people. We talked people performance in every one of our weekly meetings.  The directors were encouraged to bring up people examples of those who were shining and those who were struggling.  If one of the other leaders were not familiar with those that were shining, we’d set up a process or special project where they could become more aware.  We ranked everyone on the team once a year plus a mid-year check in on the rankings.  You have to be diligent in managing your team.

Skills, Behaviours and Experiences

Marketing Skills: Brand Leaders should be measured on the Core Marketing Skills.  Below, I’ve outlined a Checklist of 30 Core Skills for a Brand Leader that can be used to highlight potential gaps that some of our Brand Leaders may have.  These 30 core skills fall under the areas of:

  • Analytics
  • Brand Planning
  • Briefs
  • Advertising
  • New Products & Claims
  • Go-To-Market
  • Leadership
  • Management

You can use this checklist in a few different ways:  1) to see if someone is meeting the needs of the current job–it could be used to set someone up for a performance improvement plan or as a motivation to push themselves 2) for someone who is close to ready for promotion, but you want to close on a few specific areas before the promotion or 3) for your personal assessment to see what you want to work on.

The rating should compare against their peers.  It helps to highlight skill gaps where people should focus their attention.  Any scores in the 1 or 2 are concerning and need an action plan.  The gap could arise because it’s outside of their natural skills or it could just be because it’s been outside of their experience they’ve had.  It’s tough to be good at advertising until  you’ve worked on a brand with advertising.

Leadership Skills:  Below, I’ve outlined a Checklist of 12 Leader Behaviours of Brand Leaders that can be used to highlight potential gaps that some of our Brand Leaders may have.  These 12 leader behaviours fall under the areas of:

  • Accountability to Results
  • People Leadership
  • Strategic Thinker
  • Broad Influence
  • Authentic Style

In the Leader Behaviour space, we all have blind sides that we just can’t see.  This is where the 360 degree feedback can help people to see how they are showing up.  I know that as a Director, I was a Driver-Driver that caused me to have behaviour gaps around Influence and Style.  I had the attitude of “it’s my way or the highway” and I wasn’t getting what I needed from the strategy and accountability I was hoping for.  Once I was able to identify it and work on it, I was able to see a big improvement in my performance and the results started to pay off as well.   Without closing that gap when I was a director, I would not have been promoted and would have honestly been unable to lead the entire marketing team.

Experience:  Many of our gaps as Brand Leaders comes from not having the experience.  When managing others, expect quite a few mistakes in the first few and you might not get fully there until your 5th direct report. When sitting in the hot seat of advertising, you’ll start to realize just how complex it can be–you’ve got to stay on brief, keep the creative team motivated, make judgement calls at every stage of the process and keep your own management on side.  And at every level, you’ll start to notice that the pressure gets higher–whether it’s push for results, the ambiguity or meeting deadlines through your team.  Each of these takes experience.

With  your best people, make sure you identify the experience gaps they have and be fair to them with the next assignment.  It’s far too easy to keep relying on a person’s strengths but it’s more important that you round out that person’s experience.  If they advance too far without covering off those gaps, they may find themselves struggling later in the job.  I’ve known newly promoted directors who had very little advertising experience coming up that all of a sudden found themselves on a desk with lots of advertising.  Their team even had more experience than they did.  Regular people reviews can really help identify the experience gaps that people might have. 

To read about the four levels of the Marketing Team, read the following document that can help you manage your people’s careers based on where they are:

And for any learnings for your teams on specific skills, I’ve created 14 Learning Sessions for Brand Leaders that can help your team to get better.  Most of these sessions can be done in full day sessions with people applying the skills immediately on their businesses.  It’s worth the investment and will be a highly motivating experience for your teams.  To read about all the marketing roles:  1) Assistant Brand Manager 2) Brand Manager 3)  Marketing Director and 4) VP Marketing

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

10 “Stop It’s” to avoid failing on the Customer Experience

The most Beloved Brands create a brand experience that lives up to even over-delivers against the brand’s promise.  I always like to remind myself that the customer is the most selfish animal on the planet, and deservedly so, because they have given you their hard-earned money.  Brand Leaders are always fixated on driving demand to increase share and sales.  Yet they usually only reach for marketing tactics like advertising, special promotion or new products.  It takes years to get customers to change their behavior and move away from their favorite brand and try yours.  Yet it takes seconds of bad service for you to lose a customer for life.

There are five sources of connection for a brand 1) Brand Promise:  Positioning 2) Strategy:  Plan  3) The Brand Story:  Communication 4) Freshness:  Innovation and finally 5) The Experience:  impacted by the culture and operations. As Brand Leaders, we tend to think someone else is managing the customer experience.  But it’s all part of the brand and you should be constantly managing the customer experience so it over-delivers against the brand promise.  The brand promise is not just for great external communication.  It equally acts as an internal beacon for the company’s culture to look to for how to behave and so the organization is set up to deliver.

Here’s 10 things you can Stop Doing:

Bad Service Rule #1:  Stop It with the attitude of “I’m in shirts not ties”.  It can be extremely frustrating walking up to an employee of a store who has no clue about anything but their own little world.  And even worse when they just point and say “go over there”.  The better service is those who take the extra step by jumping in and helping and those know what’s going on in every part of the brand–not just their own world.   Try asking someone at Whole Foods where something is and they will walk you right over to the product you’re asking about and ask if you need anything else.

Bad Service Rule #2:  Stop It when you make the customer do the work.  The airlines have been shifting all their work over to customers for years–boarding pass, bag tag and now even lifting your suitcase up onto the conveyor belt.  While it might help you control your costs in the short-term, you’ll never be a Beloved Brand and you’ll never be able to charge a premium price for your services.  Instead, in a highly price competitive marketplace, you just end up passing those cost savings onto to the customer in lower prices.  No wonder most airlines are going bankrupt.

Bad Service Rule #3:  Stop It when you feel compelled to bring up the fine print when dealing with a customer problem.  Last week I had a computer problem, but I felt extra confident because I had paid extra money to get the TOTAL service plan.  Yet with my first computer problem I was told the TOTAL service plan did not include hardware,software, water damage or physical damage.  With a computer, what else is there?   As a consumer, I had gone through the brand funnel–from consideration to purchase–and made a choice to buy your brand.  Yet, at the first sign of my frustration with your brand you are deciding to say to me “don’t come back”.  I had a problem with my iPod a few years ago and returned it to the Apple store.  They went into the back room and got a new iPod for me and said “would you like us to transfer all your songs over?”.  I was stunned.  Apple took a problem and turned me into a happy customer who wanted to spend even more money with them.

Bad Service Rule #4:  Stop It when you send a phone call to an answering machine.  We’ve all experienced this and secretly many of us have done this.  Now if you know you’re going to get a machine, it’s OK to say “is it OK if you get their machine”.   But willingly sending a caller into a machine is just plain lazy and it says you just don’t care.  Treat them with the respect that a paying customer has earned with you and make sure there is a human on the other line.

Bad Service Rule #5:  Stop It with processes that make it look like you’ve never been a customer before.  While brand leaders tend to think they own the strategy and advertising, it is equally important that you also own the customer experience.  While the positive view of the purchase process is driven by a brand funnel, you should also use a “Leaky Bucket” analysis to understand where and why you are losing customers.   It is hard work to get a customer into your brand funnel, it is great discipline to move them through that brand funnel by ensuring that every stage is set up to make it easy for the customer to keep giving you money.  Step into the shoes of your customers and experience the brand through their eyes on a regular basis so you can effectively manage the experience.  When you find leaks to the brand funnel, find ways to close them so you can hang on to the customers you’ve worked so hard to get into the doors.

Bad Service Rule #6:  Stop It with the trying to win every customer interaction.  Last year after Christmas I was lucky enough to be 34th in the return line.  For some reason they put the most angry person they could find to manage the returns line.  With every customer, this guy was hell-bent on trying to break the customer’s spirit so they’d avoid returning the product.   As I watched, I felt like I was headed into a police interrogation.  On the other hand, if you want to see a comfortable returns policy, try returning something at Costco.  They take the stance that they are on the side of their “members” and help you go up against the big bad manufacturers.  If you don’t have your receipt, they’ll print it out for you.  At Costco, the returns process is where they earn that $50-100 membership price.  Just maybe you should start treating your customers like members and see if it forces you to see things differently.

Bad Service Rule #7:  Stop It when you are explaining your problems instead of listening to the customer’s problems.  When a place is completely messed up, some people feel compelled to tell you how stupid they think this is. Unfortunately, this constantly complaining ‘why me’ attitude can quickly become systemic and contagious within the culture.  It takes an effort to turn the culture around–laying in service values, driving process that helps reward good service, and driving personal accountability within everyone.

Bad Service Rule #8:  Stop It with the hollow apologies that seems like you are reading from a manual.  No one wants to deal with people who just feel like they are going through the motions.  It’s crucial that you set up a culture that is filled with authentic people who have a true passion for customers.  TD Bank retail staff does an exceptional job in being real with customers.  When you consider that they hire from the same pool of talent as all the other banks, it’s obviously the culture of caring about their customers that really makes the difference in separating their customer experience from others.

Bad Service Rule #9:  Stop It when you try using my complaint call as a chance to up-sell me  The only up-sell is to get me to come back again.   Last month, I had an issue with my internet being way too slow.  When I called my local service provider, instead of addressing how bad their current service was, the first response was to try selling me a better service plan that with a higher monthly fee and a higher priced modem.  And then all of a sudden, they tried to sell me a home security system.   If a customer is a point of frustration, why would they want to pay you even more money for a bad service.  You haven’t earned my business.  The best in class service is the Ritz Carlton who proactively look to turn customer problems into a chance to WOW the customer.  It’s built right into the culture as employees are encouraged to brainstorm solutions and empowered with up to $2,000.  Instead of up-selling, the Ritz spends the extra effort to ensure you’re satisfied with the service you’ve already paid for.

Bad Service Rule #10:  Stop It when it just becomes a job for you and you forget the passion you have for the business.  When your team starts to feel like they have no power, they just start to show up as pencil-pushing bureaucrats.  There’s no passion left–as it’s been sucked out by a culture with a complacent attitude and a bunch of check in-check out types who follow the job description and never do anything beyond it.  Ask yourself “why do you come to work” and if the answer doesn’t show up in your work, then you know that the culture needs a complete overhaul.  If you don’t love the work, then how do you expect your customer to love the brand?  

Brand = Culture

Beloved Brands create an exceptional customer experience.  They know it’s not just about advertising and innovation.  As a consumer, I’ve become spoiled by the best of the brands who raise the bar and continue to surprise and delight me.  Think of how special you feel when you are dealing with Disney, Starbucks and Apple.  And compare that to how demoralized you feel when dealing with the airlines, utilities and electronics shops.  For the Beloved Brands, they understand that Culture and Brand are One.  The Brand becomes an internal beacon for the culture—and the brand’s people have to genuinely be the strongest most outspoken fans who spread the brand’s virtues.

As you look at your own customer experience, take a walk in your customers shoes and see where your customer would rate you.   Are they with you because they love you and want to be with you or because they have to be with you?  Even though they like the product, they may be indifferent to your brand.  And they’ll be gone at the first chance at an alternative.  And as a brand leader, your brand is likely stuck on a rational promise, unable to separate yourself from competitors and instead you are left competing on price and promotion.

  • Begin by holding the culture up the lens of the brand DNA and ensure the right team in place to deliver against the needs of the brand.
  • Start finding ways to create a culture that is more consumer centric (customer first)
  • Begin to push the culture to create a unique delivery of the product experience.  Use Leaky Bucket analysis to take a walk in yoru customers shoes and to address weaknesses.
  • Set up forums for innovation—that create an energy through the culture and one that starts to take risks on the best ideas.
  • Use a purpose driven vision, with a set of beliefs and values to challenge the team to create and deliver that experience.
  • Begin using power of a loved brand to attract and retain the best.  Find fans of the brand who will become your front line spokespeople.  They bring that passion for the brand.  Just ask the guys in the blue shirts at the Apple stores.

Here’s a presentation on what makes a Beloved Brand:

 

To read How Beloved Brands fall from grace, follow this link:  how-beloved-brands-fall-from-grace

 

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

Lululemon: A Beloved Brand with Yoga at the core of it’s DNA

Lululemon is quickly becoming a Beloved Brand, with an extremely loyal following that love not only how the brand makes them feel (healthy, comfortable, free) but also love the product which is reliable, ethical and of a high quality.

At the core of Lulu’s Brand DNA is Yoga.  Yoga has a balance of rational and emotional benefits–and Lulu shares most of those same balances.  And now, there’s a growing movement in Ottawa with free Yoga on Canada’s Parliament Hill that has attracted crowds of up to 1,000 people so far with a goal of reaching 5,000 on August 15, 2012.   What a great event.

Instructors come from the local Lululemon store and encourage yogis of all skill.  The idea started six years ago as a true grass-roots movement with six people taking their yoga mats up to Parliament Hill.  Classes are every Wednesday, from 12 noon to 1pm throughout the summer.  So get out there!

Every Lululemon store offers free yoga classes.  They close down the store, throw down the mats and go to it.  Lulu has also come up with innovative “pop up” Yoga classes and has an on-line program called “Gift of Yoga” with 20 minute yoga class videos on you tube.

Lululemon has been staying true to the Brand DNA and has carefully expanded the brand without going too far, too fast.  As a result of being authentic the brand, Lulu has managed to connect powerfully with their consumers. Without a lot of advertising spend, Lulu’s success comes from word-of-mouth and experience with the brand.  That makes events like the Parliament Hill yoga classes even more powerful.   With revenue at $1 Billion, more than double two years ago and four times the size it was back in 2008.   While most brands expand with a focus on revenue now and profits later, Lulu has done it the smart way, seeing profit margins going up steadily during the growth, going from 13% in 2010 up to 18.3% in 2012.  That’s a sign of a powerfully connected brand and intelligent brand expansion that other brands can learn from.

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/

Coke’s Futuristic Fountain Experience Thrills Consumers

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

First you choose your drink from among 20 choices.

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

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

Then you choose your flavour alteration from among 8 choices.

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

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

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

When Your Brand is Liked but Not Loved

Don’t feel bad about being at the Like It stage, because that’s where most brands are.

You have been able to successfully carve out a niche and be a chosen brand against a proliferation of brands in the category.    And you have good share results, moderate profits and most brand indicators are reasonably healthy.  It’s just that no one loves you.

Does it really matter?   Brands move from Indifferent to Like It to Love It to Beloved Brand for Life.  But isn’t being Liked Enough?   If you could move to a Loved brand, you would have a very tight connection with consumers.  That connection becomes a source of power that you can harness, and then use to drive higher growth and profits.  How can you harness the power Love in the market?  If you are loved, you’ll have power over retailers generating preferential treatment, because they know their consumers will switch stores before they switch brands.  You can push suppliers for lower costs because they’ll want to tell others they supply you,  You can generate free press, because your brand is now all of a sudden newsworthy.  You’ll have cheaper real estate because malls will want your brand to anchor the new mall.   Employees will sacrifice wages just to have your brand on their resume.   And loved brands can even use that power on the very consumers that love you already:  new products will generate early awareness and trial.   All this power, derived from the connectivity to consumers, can be harnessed to generate higher growth rates and added profits.  Ask Apple, who is the most loved and the most profitable.  They understand the formula:  Beloved = Power = Growth = Profit.

Many times I find it hard to convince logical brand managers that being more loved matters.  They stick to the safe logic of claims over benefits, stick to the rational of side-by-side demonstrations and they settle for likeable execution instead of pushing for loveable work.  They worry going emotional feels risky.  Unsafe.   I’m a logical profit driven marketer.  I believe in proof.  Emotional is silly agency talk.  You might be right because the only advantages a Loved Brand offers is higher growth rates, higher margins, lower costs to serve and overall higher profitability.  So stick to being liked and your modest results.

How the consumer sees your Brand at the Liked Stage:  

Consumers see your brand as a functional and rational choice they make.   They tried it and it makes sense so they buy it, use it and they do enjoy it.  It meets a basic need they have.  They likely prefer it versus another brand, but they think it is better, cheaper or easier to use.  Or your mom told you to use it.  But, consumers don’t have much of an emotional connection or feeling about the brand.     Where Indifferent is really bad, you’re ordinary, which is just a little bit better.  Overall, consumers see you brand in the “it will do” space.

Why is your brand Stuck at the Like It stage?

There are seven possible reasons why you are at the Like It Stage:

  1. Protective Brand Leaders means Caution:  While many of these brands at the Like It are very successful brands, they get stuck because of overly conservative and fearful Brand Managers, who pick middle of the road strategies and execute “ok” ideas.  On top of this, Brand Managers who convince themselves that “we stay conservative because it’s a low-interest category” should be removed.   Low interest category means you need even more to captivate the consumer.
  2. We are rational thinking Marketers:  Those marketers that believe they are strictly rational are inhibiting their brands.  The brand managers get all jazzed on claims, comparatives, product demonstration and doctor recommended that they forget about the emotional side of the purchase decision.   Claims need to be twisted into benefits—both rational and emotional benefits.   Consumers don’t care about you do until you care about what they need.  Great marketers find that balance of the science and art of the brand.   Ordinary marketers get stuck with the rational only.
  3. New Brand with Momentum:  Stage 2 of a new brand innovation is ready to expand from the early adopters to the masses.   The new brand begins to differentiate itself in a logical way to separate themselves from the proliferation of copycat competitors.   Consumers start to go separate ways as well.  Retailers might even back one brand over another.  Throughout the battle, the brand carves out a base of consumers.
  4. There’s a Major Leak:  If you look at the brand buying system, you’ll start to see a major leak at some point where you keep losing customers.  Most brands have some natural flaw—whether it’s the concept, the product, taste profile ease of use or customer service.   Without analyzing and addressing the leak, the brand gets stuck.  People like it, but refuse to love it.
  5. Brand changes their Mind every year:  Brands really exist because of the consistency of the promise.  When the promise and the delivery of the promise changes every year it’s hard to really connect with what the brand is all about.  A brand like Wendy’s has changed their advertising message every year over the past 10 years.  The only consumers remaining are those who like their burgers, not the brand.
  6. Positional Power–who needs Love:  there are brands that have captured a strong positional power, whether it`s a unique technology or distribution channel or even value pricing advantage.  Brands like Microsoft or Wal-Mart or even many of the pharmaceuticals products don`t see value in the idea of being loved.   The problem is when you lose the positional power, you lose your customer base completely.
  7. Brands who capture Love, but no Life Ritual:  There are brands that quickly capture the imagination but somehow fail to capture a routine embedded in the consumers’ life, usually due to some flaw.   Whether it’s Krispy Kreme, Pringles or even Cold Stone, there’s something inherent in the brand’s format or weakness that holds it back and it stays stuck at Loved but just not often enough.  So, you forget you love them.
There are lots of reasons your brand is stuck at Like It, mainly because so many of brands are at the Like It stage.  And there’s nothing shameful in it, but just know you could get more from your brand.

Indicators that Your Brand is stuck at the Like It stage

  • Low Conversion to Sales.   While the brand looks healthy in terms of awareness and equity scores, the brand is successful in becoming part of the consumer’s consideration set, but it keeps losing out to the competition as the consumer goes to the purchase stage.  It usually requires a higher trade spend to close that sale which cuts price and margins.
  • Brand Doesn’t Feel Different:  A great advertising tracking score to watch is “made the brand seem different” which helps to separate itself from the pack, many times speaking to the emotional part of the messaging.
  • Stagnant Shares:  Your brand team is happy when they hold onto their share, content to grow with the category.
  • High Private Label Sales:    If you only focus on the ingredients and the rational features of the product, the consumer will start to figure out they get the same thing with the private label and the share starts to creep up to 20% and higher.

How to get past the Like It stage and move towards the Love It stage

  • Focus on action and drive Consideration and Purchase:  stake out certain spaces in the market creating a brand story that separates your brand from the clutter.  Begin to sell the solution, not just the product.  Build a Bigger Following:  Invest in building a brand story that helps to drive for increased popularity and get new consumers to use the brand.
  • Begin to Leverage those that already Love:  Focus on the most loyal consumers and drive a deeper connection by driving the routine which should increase usage frequency.  On top of that, begin cross selling to capture a broader type of usage.
  • Love the Work:  It is time to dial-up the passion that goes into the marketing execution.   Beloved Brands have a certain magic to them.  But “Like It’ brands tend to settle for ok, rather than push for great.  With better work, you’ll be able to better captivate and delight the consumers.  If you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand.
  • Fix the Leak:  Brands that are stuck have something embedded in the brand or the experience that is holding back the brand.  It frustrates consumers and restricts them from fully committing to making the brand a favourite.  Be proactive and get the company focused on fixing this leak.
  • Build a Big Idea:  Consumers want consistency from the brand—constant changes to the advertising, packaging or delivery can be frustrating. Leverage a Brand Story and a Big Idea that balances rational and emotional benefits helps to establish a consistency for the brand and help build a much tighter relationship.

Brands at the Like It stage get complacent.  You need to drive the Love into the work, and find the balance between rational and emotional benefits. 

 

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

How to Differentiate your Brand through Product Innovation

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Patent Office,  1899

The quote above 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.  

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.  

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 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 continuously the 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: very few brands remain at the top for very long.   

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.   My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  I do executive training 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.