11 Resolutions for Brand Leaders in 2021

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

Who says resolutions are just for personal goals?  As per tradition, here’s my ever-evolving list of resolutions for brand leaders, meant to help guide your success in 2021 and beyond.

Read them, live them, laminate them!

  1. I will keep two things front and center: The people we exist to serve, and the change we will create for them.  My starting point is not what we get, but what we give.
  2. In line with #1, I will craft a brand positioning statement that clearly defines our Who (the people we serve), our How (our meaningful difference) and our Why (the benefit we create).
  3. I will approach strategy as an informed opinion on how to win.  I will diagnose where we are, establish where we want to be, and make clear, credible choices to bridge the gap.
  4. I will remember that what we do matters far more than what we say – and if we do something meaningful, we’ll have a story worth telling.
  5. I will be focused, disciplined and creative.  I will do a few things very well instead of many things at parity.  I will do more with less.
  6. I won’t waste one minute trying to please everyone, because what we do isn’t for “everyone.”
  7. I will recognize that internal victories precede external ones – and that guiding the unified intent of our team is one of my most important roles.
  8. I will remember that culture beats strategy – but it’s not an either/or.
  9. I will treat my consumers, co-workers and partners with the respect they deserve – always.
  10. I will ask more questions, listen more, read more and learn from every possible source.
  11. I will use my brand as a force for good – to make the world a better place in some way.

What would you add to this list of resolutions?  Here’s to creating meaning and value in 2021!

If you enjoyed this post, please:

1. Share with at least one person (or use the share buttons)
2. Sign up for our newsletter, That Branding Thing
3. Find me on Twitter or LinkedIn

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew is a former CMO who helps brands to focus, stand out and grow.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He’s based in Chicago.

Copyright 2020 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.

“We Hired Your Brain, Not Your Ass”

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

“We hired your brain, not your ass.”

I received these words of wisdom from one of my first bosses, half a lifetime ago.

It’s one of my all-time favorite quotes. It (usually) brings a chuckle, but it also delivers a solid point in only seven words.

It’s a reminder that whatever it is you’re being paid to do, it’s not to just fill a chair.  So bring your best every day.  Own your area fully.  Be a reliable contributor to the conversations happening a level or two up.  Challenge the orthodoxy when it needs to be challenged. And engage the most powerful asset you have: The point of view created by your unique collection of experiences.

And if you’re managing others: Make room for the above to happen.  Remove obstacles wherever you can.  Let your team know that you want more from them than to merely parrot your opinions.  Don’t punish them for challenging sacred cows.  Seek to develop your people into not just doers, but thinkers.

The longer I do this branding & business thing, the more I realize: Surrounding yourself with the right hearts & minds makes all the difference.  And there’s no substitute for a team of people who are truly invested.

If you enjoyed this post, please:

1. Share with at least one person (or use the share buttons)
2. Sign up for our newsletter, That Branding Thing
3. Find me on Twitter or LinkedIn

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew is a former CMO who helps brands to focus, stand out and grow.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He’s based in Chicago.

Copyright 2020 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.

The Super Bowl Ads: A Guide for the Rest of Us

(Reading Time: 10 minutes)

Friends, the Super Bowl is just a few days away.  That means the Super Bowl ads are just a few days away.  And that means the advertising media, and a few pundits, are working themselves into a lather right about now.

Take Gary Vaynerchuk.  He’s on record as saying:

“Super Bowl ads are underpriced.  Yeah, I said it.”

Medium.com, Jan. 29, 2015

And:

“When I buy my first brand, the first thing I’m gonna do is run multiple Super Bowl ads.”

ANA Masters of Marketing Conference, 2016

See that?  Gary Vee doesn’t even know what his product or service will be, let alone anything about its market or competitive situation, and he’s already committed to a tactical decision on its behalf.  This is obviously a problem, and we’ll come back to it.

Continue reading “The Super Bowl Ads: A Guide for the Rest of Us”

The Birth of White Mystery Airheads (and What It Taught Me)

Airheads White Mystery package
(Reading Time: 7 minutes)

It was early 1993.  I was less than a year out of college, and the Assistant Brand Manager of Airheads candy.  (A title that no doubt made my parents very proud.)

After the successful launch of Blue Raspberry Airheads in August 1992, we were searching for the next new flavor to add to our lineup.

We took all the standard steps – reviewing category sales data, reading trade magazines, meeting with flavor suppliers, etc.

And taking the standard steps, unsurprisingly, resulted in a list of the usual suspects.

Continue reading “The Birth of White Mystery Airheads (and What It Taught Me)”

The 2019 Super Bowl Ads: Who Unleveled the Playing Field?

Doritos Super Bowl Chance the Rapper Backstreet Boys

(Reading Time: 6 minutes)By now, we’re at the point where we know what to expect from the Super Bowl ads.

Before the game, you could have jotted down a list of what you thought you would see, based on history.  That list probably would have included:

  • Celebrities galore!
  • Animals (especially dogs) at their most undeniably adorable
  • People or animals doing silly dances
  • Inspiring Statements of High-Minded Purpose
  • The unusual, the surreal, the flat-out bizarre (with or without reason)
  • Production values to rival a summer blockbuster film

You can make this kind of list for almost any category.  Sometimes, it’s comically easy to do.  And the more “tried, true and expected” the items on that list, the more ripe that category is for some rule-breaking.

So who broke the rules with this year’s Super Bowl ads? Continue reading “The 2019 Super Bowl Ads: Who Unleveled the Playing Field?”

Six Important Questions for This Year’s Super Bowl Advertisers

M&Ms Super Bowl Advertisers

(Reading Time: 7 minutes)Quick show of hands: Do you have a marketing budget of five million dollars?

And if you did, how would you feel about spending it in 30 seconds?  Because that’s exactly what last night’s Super Bowl advertisers did.  Repeatedly.

That’s nearly $167,000 per second – more than most Americans earn in an entire year.

So I trust you’ll forgive me if I approach the Super Bowl ads, and the surrounding fanfare, with a healthy degree of scrutiny.  I’m a brand guy – always have been – but I also know this:  If it doesn’t sell, it’s bad branding.

And, based on history, most of last night’s ads did not sell. Continue reading “Six Important Questions for This Year’s Super Bowl Advertisers”

Here’s How One Business Quadrupled Its Sales in a Flat Market

Matthew Fenton Chicago Brand Strategy
(Reading Time: 6 minutes)

For many leaders of smaller businesses, sustainable growth can be difficult to conjure up.  If that sounds like you, I’d like to introduce you to a company that should give you hope.

Consider these results:

  • This company has averaged 19% compounded annual growth over the last 8 years, with annual growth never less than 6% during this period.
  • This company doubled sales in one five-year period, and nearly quadrupled sales in eight years.
  • Notably, this growth was earned in a mature market that can be challenging to sell to.

And they did it without relying on any “secrets,” gimmicks or silver bullets.

Intrigued?  Let’s get to know them a little better.

Continue reading “Here’s How One Business Quadrupled Its Sales in a Flat Market”