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Strategic Thinking


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Strategic Thinking

  1. 1. BELOVEDBRANDS HOW TO THINK STRATEGICALLYINC. Graham Robertson | President of Beloved Brands Inc.
  2. 2. How to Think Strategically If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else. Yogi BeraAfter 20 years of managing marketing teams, I’ve seen hundreds if not thousands of marketers–someclassically trained CPG and some with just good instincts. While 100% of them would proclaim ofthemselves “I’m a strategic thinker”, in reality only about 15-20% were actually strategic. Yet, even some ofthe best implementers I know still want to be strategic. I don’t get it. Why? I want someone to just finally say“I’m a really good tactical thinker and not really that good at strategy”. I have finally started to ask some ofmy friends who are great implementers: ”Why do you want to be strategic?” I finally got an answer thatmade sense. “Strategic people get paid more”.To me, the difference between a strategic thinker and a non-strategic thinker is whether you see questionsfirst or answers first. Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions. They map out arange of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They reflect and planbefore they act. They are thinkers and planning who can see connections. Non-Strategic Thinkers seeanswers before questions. They get to answers quickly, and will get frustrated in the delays of thinking. Theythink doing something is better than doing nothing at all. They opt for action over thinking. They areimpulsive and doers who see tasks. They are frustrated by strategic thinkers. Aren’t we all.But to be a great marketer, you must be a bit of a chameleon. While pure strategy people make greatconsultants, I wouldn’t want them running my brand. They’d keep analyzing things to death, without evertaking action. And while tactical people get stuff done, it might not be the stuff we need done. I wantsomeone running my brand who is both strategic and non-strategic, almost equally so. You must be able totalk with both types, at one minute debating investment choices and then be at a voice recording deciding onoption A or B. You need to make tough choices but you also have to inspire all those non-strategic thinkers tobe great on your brand instead of being great on someone else’s brand.So let’s see if there is a model that can help people be better at strategy. A simple way is to break it downinto the 4 elements of a good strategy: there is usually a good Focus of resources on what has the biggestpotential return, an Early Win that allows you to confidently keep going, a Leverage point you can twist andturn and finally a Gateway to something even bigger. Here’s how the 4 stages of thinking works: Visit the blog at
  3. 3. 1. FOCUS all your energy to a particular strategic point or purpose. Match up your brand assets to pressure points you can break through, maximizing your limited resources—either financial resources or effort. Make tough choices and opt be loved by the few rather than tolerated by the many. 2. You want that EARLY WIN, to kick start of some momentum. Early Wins are about slicing off parts of the business or population where you can build further. Without the early win, you’ll likely seek out some new strategy even a sub-optimal one. Or someone in management will say “it’s not working”. You don’t want either of those–so the early win helps keep people moving towards the big win. 3. LEVERAGE everything to gain positional advantage or power that helps exert even greater pressure and gains the tipping point of the business that helps lead to something bigger. This is where strategy provides that return–you get more than the effort you’re doing from it. 4. Seeing beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, which is the entrance or a means of access to something even bigger. It could be getting to the masses, changing opinions or behaviours. Return on Investment or Effort.Lots of explanations on strategy use war analogies, so let’s look at D-Day and see how it matches up. While Germany was fighting a war on two fronts (Russia and Britain), the Allied Forces planned D-Day for 2 years and joined in full force to focus all their attention on one beach, on one day. The surprise attack gave them an early win, and momentum which they could then leverage into a bigger victory then just one beach. Getting on mainland Europe gave the allied forces the gateway they needed to steamroll through on a town by town basis and defeat the Germans. The allied forces had been on the defensive for years, but landing on D-Day gavethem one victory and the tipping point to winning the war. For those who struggle with focus, imagine that ifthe Allied Forces decided to place one soldier every 15 feet from Denmark all the way around Europe toGreece. Would it have been successful? Not a chance.While war analogies put some heightened sense of intelligence into marketing, let’s look at an exampleusing Avril Lavigne and see if it still works. If it does, then maybe it’s still a good model. In 2005, Avril’scareer was flat, a normal path for young musicians. To kick off her album, she did a series of free mallconcerts—and was criticized as desperate. She was desperate and no one really understood the logic. Butthink about it: malls are exactly where her target (11-17 female) hangs out, allowing her to focus all her Visit the blog at
  4. 4. energy on her core target. She attracted 5k screaming 13 year olds per mall—creating an early win among hermost loyal of fans: those who loved and adored her. She was ableto leverage the good will and energy to get these loyal fans to go buyher album in the mall record stores which helped her album debut at#1 on the charts. And everyone knows the charts are the gateway tothe bigger mass audience–more radio play, more iTunes downloadsand more talk value. The comeback complete. Madonna has done thesame strategy, except she seeded her songs into dance clubs for thelast 20 years.However, even though all these marketers are saying they are strategic, strategy actually runs counterintuitive to many marketers. You mean by focusing on something so small, I can get something big. Thatmakes no sense. I better keep trying to do everything to everyone. But that’s exactly how a fulcrum works togive you leverage. Next time you’re taking off your tire on your car, try getting 6 really strong guys to lift yourcar or just get a tiny little car jack. This is the same model for brand strategy. Focus on your strengths, focuson those consumers who will most love you and focus on the one potential action point you can actually getthem to do.Many marketers always struggle with the idea of focus and always try to do it all. And for everyone. Theyworry they’ll pick a potential target too tight and alienate others, focus on one message and forget to tell allthey know and miss a crucial fact or focus too tight on one part of the business and forget the others. I saw abrief describe their target was “18-65, current customers, potential customers and employees”. I said “allyou’ve eliminated is prisoners and tourists.” I get it that it can feel scary to focus. But it should feel evenscarier not focusing, just in case you’re wrong. You always operate with limited resources no matter how bigof a brand: financial, people, partnering, time. Trying to do everything spreads your limited resources andyour message so that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”. In a crowded and fast economy, “ok”never breaks through so you’ll never get the early win to gain that tipping point that opens up the gateway.When you focus, three things happen: 1) you actually become very good at what you do 2) people perceiveyou to be very good at what you do since that is the only thing you do 3) you can defend the positioningterritoryMany times, Marketers fall in love with the best ideas—not always the best strategies. This is where theytactical and they end up chasing down a path with a hollow gateway. It’s crucial you always start with the beststrategies and then find the best ideas that fit with those strategies, not the other way around. What you need Visit the blog at
  5. 5. to do is try to map out all the potential wins, try to understand what’s behind that win, and if there issomething bigger then go for it, but if there isn’t, then you should reject this path. There has to be a largegateway behind those cool ideas, so you love what the idea does more so than just loving the idea.How it matches up to Beloved Brands is where you can narrow down to the action point of where you want tomove the consumer. Assess honestly where you stand on the Brand Love Curve–indifferent, like it, love it orbrand for life. Focus all your energy on moving your brand along the curve. You can leverage the point on theLove Curve to help you narrowdown your focus–it can even helpyou pick the strategies you shoulduse for each stage. See below forhow it can help you pick astrategy.If you are at the Indifferent Stage,you should try to move to the LikeIt stage by getting consumers tobe aware of you and becomemore familiar which meansa focus on the head to establishyour brand in the mind, whetherit is strategic options such asoffering a mind share, a mind shiftor some type of new news. As you move to the Like It stage, you should focus on the feet and pushconsumers to take action by driving acquisition or penetration, pushing for consolidation and cross sell. Yougot to believe you have the right offering that will help consumers once they use you. And to reach forthe Love It stage, try strategies that focus on the heart, to deepen the relationship, offer new reasons to loveor even maintain and re-enforce the love they have for the brand.With a focus on just one stage of the Love Curve, you can start to see movement down the curve which will bean early win, usually with a sales lift. From there you’ll begin toleverage the tighter connection with theconsumer that can lead to a gateway of bigger wins such as increased sales, higher share and in the end moreprofitability. Visit the blog at
  6. 6. About Beloved Brands Inc.The purpose of Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands to realize their full potential value. Most marketers willtell you that branding is about finding a unique positioning. That is important. But I think positioning isa source of power and a means to drive growth and make money. I will help your brand become a morebeloved brand and in turn a more powerful and more profitable brand. BELOVED = POWER = GROWTH = PROFITEverything starts and ends with the consumer in mind.  You have to match your strengths to what your consumer is looking for, to develop a competitive advantage that you can satisfy better than anyone else.  In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Love It stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans.  You have to intimately know your consumer and build a relationship with them. It’s that relationship at that Love It stage that becomes a source of power, which can be leveraged to gain share, drive sales, increase price or extend usage, all of which helps to drive growth and profits for their brand. This helps increase the overall value of the brand.  Execution matters as much as strategy. There’s a certain magic in the way a brand strategies can be executed to connect with the consumer. The more you love your work, the more they’ll love your brand.My biggest point of difference is the sense of reality I will bring to the table. Unlike other consultants, I am aformer operator, just like you. And I know that speed, simplicity and action matters to you. I won’t ever puttogether a deck that costs you a fortune and just sits there. Instead, I will use workshops to ensure alignmentand speed moving towards an action plan that will help drive on-the-spot accountability amongst yourteam. I’m a creative yet pragmatic Marketer who has always been focused squarely on the results. I’vewalked a mile in your shoes. In this tough economy, I offer a price that’s reasonable because while you’ll getthe highest of quality in thinking, I don’t have the overhead of a big consulting firm. The more loved the brand, the more valuable the brand Visit the blog at