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Visionary Thinking

with Nicolas De Santis

The Brand Wars are happening right now. The battlefield is the global
marketplace and your future is at stake. If you wait around and react
to the competition you’re finished.

This year alone $630 billion dollars will be spent marketing brands
around the world.

The United States will spend $100 billion dollars less than that on
defence this year and everyone has an opinion about their policies.

But ask the average person in the street what brands mean to them
and they’ll shrug their shoulders because most brands have become
meaningless to people.

Some brands get it right, though. Some brands speak to people.

These are what I call the VISIONARY BRANDS.

The old tactics were simple: spend boatloads of money to create brand
awareness, grow in multiple markets, outsmart the competition then take
the money and run.
To succeed today a company must set itself apart from the army of clones
that make up the corporate landscape. It must create real sustainable value
for its people, internally and externally. It has to be the company people talk
about at dinner parties and around the water cooler. To win the Brand Wars
you must improve the world around you.


Your customers are under constant attack. They’re inundated with so much
marketing that the messages blend into one. They can’t escape it, it’s in every
part of their daily lives. It infiltrates their dreams. Women are bombarded with
ads for hair loss treatments, men have tampon ads thrown in their face. It’s a
constant clamour of irrelevant information.

That’s the marketing of the past and if you think it will help you in the future
then stop reading now. You’ve already lost the war.

If you want to see how the Brand Wars are really won, read on.


Neuroscientists Estimate that the average brain holds 10,000 “Brand Files”
but only a few hundred make a strong enough connection to live in our
long term memory.

In the past it was o.k. to be reactive. It was o.k. to spend endless hours
in committee meetings coming up with a “me too” product. It was better to
stick to traditional techniques and fail than to try something innovative.

That won’t work in today’s global marketplace. People have been inundated
with traditional marketing for so long that they have built up defences to
help them ignore the messages. These days we can even use products
like Tivo and internet pop-up blockers to avoid the old style of advertising.

To succeed today you need vision, great strategy and ethical leadership. You
must transform society for the better so that people will see your brand and
know that it will transform their lives. Your corporate culture has to represent
what you say to the world. Consumers have caught on to the old tactics and
they will no longer stand for hypocritical corporations.

If you say one thing and do another you’re dead in the water.
You can’t just change to meet the future. Change is not enough. First you
need to know who you are then you must envision your future. Once you’ve
done these things you can TRANSFORM.

If you’re not prepared to transform you’re in for a long and bumpy ride to the
bottom. It’s happening everyday. Companies that once seemed invincible
are crumbling. Ford used to be synonymous with automobiles. Now when
people think of them they think of factory closures and declining stock value.
Why? Because Ford lacked the vision to transform.

Your company must think to the future. Not in terms of what we don’t know
but in terms of what you can envision. If yours is a visionary company you
can start creating a better tomorrow not just for your company but for your
customers and for the world.

The companies that will win the Brand Wars are asking themselves
different questions than the companies that are doomed to fail.

Ask yourself where your company will be when the world runs out of oil, or
whether we’ll have new ways to communicate or what will change about the
way we eat, sleep or travel.

It’s a brave new world and you need a brave new way of thinking.
You need the most powerful weapon of all. You need Vision.


The Brand Wars are fought one person at a time. You have to connect with people
emotionally. Be passionate and you will win the hearts of consumers. You have
to think harder, work harder and transform into a different animal because the
market is getting more and more difficult everyday:

• Categories are becoming increasingly complex and fragmented.

• There are more and more competitors in the market. In the past no
one worried about China. Tomorrow they might be eating your lunch.

• Communication and marketing channels are increasing. Not even your

media agency can keep up. They’ll tell you you have to spend more and
more but they can’t tell you how to create the future you want.

• Innovation is increasingly short-lived. Apple launches a new iPod

every 6 months.

• Offers and promotions are too easily matched. If you’re still doing
promotions you’re going to be left behind.

• Brands are increasingly expensive to build. You need to create something

that markets itself by winning the devotion of the consumer. People must
love what you have to offer.

• Consumers are becoming more and more savvy and, as a result,

a more and more elusive target.

• Partnership and channel intermediaries are only

concerned with their own success.

1. Define your vision, invent your own future and make a plan to get there.
What is your destination and which type of ship will you need and what kind of crew?

2. Become indispensable to people with your products and services. Trust is

everything. You need to deliver something unique that consumers need, value and trust.

3. Pick your vision, make a plan and get there. Make sure your entire organisation
understands the strategy, the destination and the business objectives. Then set them free.

4. Brands define the essence of your company. Your brand sits on the centre
of your strategy. It expresses your true values. It is what makes you unique.

5. Create the future. Invent it. Find out what customers really want in your category
and deliver it. If you can’t do that, transform your business to serve another category
and deliver what the consumer needs. Drive your own demand. Innovate. Expand your
own market by redefining it. If you’re a me-too company you might as well kiss your
future goodbye.

6. Create a new category or niche. This is difficult but not impossible and it is
absolutely vital. Position yourself before your competitors do and you will always be
the first brand that comes to mind in that space.
7. Understand and value segmentation. Don’t try to be all things to all people.
Understand people, their motives and what role you play in their lives. They will pay
you handsomely for improving their lives.

8. Creating awareness is not enough. Anyone can buy media but just because
people are aware of your brand doesn’t mean they will want your product. Go back
and recreate your product so that sells itself. This means real innovation.

9. A good brand won’t save a bad product or a bad company. You need to see
the big picture. What makes your brand successful are great products, a culture of
innovation, great people, outstanding logistics and a true understanding of what people
want. You must also have a dream and a strong value system that your people can
believe in.

10. Unity is crucial. Does everyone in the organisation understand your strategy,
your value system, your destination (your dream) and their role in the game?

11. Your products and services make or break the brand. Focus on them. See
your business through your customers’ eyes and identify the most relevant customer
touch points. Then create a unique customer experience across all products, services
and channels.

12. People’s values and needs change due to events around them, so brands
and products need to change too. Think about providing what people will need
tomorrow, not what they needed yesterday.

13. Build friendships with your customers. Building strong relationships with
customers means they will become suspicious of competition.

14. Help consumers choose you. Consumers know they have a choice but need
help to make the decision. Help them out by identifying what they value most and
addressing it.

15. Keep it simple. Make sure the message is as simple as possible. Focus
communication on what you are good at then ask yourself: would people clearly tell
the difference between my ads and my competitors’ if I removed the logo?

16. If it doesn’t deliver – change it. Fast. Be scientific about marketing campaigns.
Test your strategies and measure results continuously. If your agency does not base their
proposed plan on results (like increased sales or more customers) show them the door.

17. Don’t be a fool, price is always a factor. No matter what the product is people
think about price even when they are buying a diamond or a luxury car. If your brand
reflects your company’s values it can help you win a price war or increase pricing. Use
it to its full potential.
18. Find your toughest new challenger. Your toughest competitor is the one you
didn’t see coming. Look out for them – especially if they are outside your category. All it
takes is two companies to come together to become your worst nightmare.

19. Understand what you do best, and then do it even better. The best
companies compete with themselves. So challenge yourself – keep raising the bar.

20. Remember, the future is what you make it. Start dreaming now.

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