Building Brands, a daily regimen

At the center of my career are brands, brands that matter to consumers and shoppers, and brands that have grown over the decades. I have had the pleasure to work on a number of large, growing, expanding brands that have really stood the test of time, ranging from Kleenex, to Breyers Ice Cream, to Coca-Cola, and to Bolthouse Farms. Brands are precious and valuable, and like children, are also fragile and needing of care. Brands aren’t static, they are never in “pause mode” with the consumer or shopper; they are either gaining or losing relevancy in the lives of their consumer franchise.

Not only have I had a chance to work on and represent some amazing brands, I have also had the chance to work with a number of brands that I have watched crumble over time. In my customer management roles over the years, I worked closely with the executive teams at Blockbuster, Circuit City and Woolworth. All three WERE major brands and strong retailers in their respective spaces, and today not one of them exists in the consumer landscape.

At the center of my philosophy on building brands is the concept originated by A.G. Lafley, Chairman and CEO of P&G, where he described the “First and Second Moments of Truth for a Brand.” Now more than ten years ago, I saw Lafley give a keynote speech at the FMI convention where he introduced this idea that a brand must “First” win at the point of demand, at the retail shelf. The “Shopper” needs to see the brand as a winning option. Once that hurdle is accomplished, the brand must then win a “second” time when it is used or consumed by the consumer.

A 2003 Bloomberg Businessweek article describes it well:

As CEO, Lafley hasn’t made grand pronouncements on the future of P&G. Instead, he has spent an inordinate amount of time patiently communicating how he wants P&G to change. In a company famed for requiring employees to describe every new course of action in a one-page memo, Lafley’s preferred approach is the slogan. For example, he felt that P&G was letting technology rather than consumer needs dictate new products. Ergo: “The consumer is boss.” P&G wasn’t working closely enough with retailers, the place where consumers first see the product on the shelf: “The first moment of truth.” P&G wasn’t concerned enough with the consumer’s experience at home: “The second moment of truth.”
Lafley uses these phrases constantly, and they are echoed throughout the organization. At the end of a three-day leadership seminar, 30 young marketing managers from around the world present what they have learned to Lafley. First on the list: “We are the voice of the consumer
within P&G, and they are the heart of all we do.” Lafley, dressed in a suit, sits on a stool in front of the group and beams. “I love the first one,” he laughs as the room erupts in applause.

This idea that brands are precious, fragile, and ever changing, and that they are built on these two “moments of truth” is at the center of my beliefs and approach. I deeply believe that while brands matter deeply, brand loyalty is an outmoded and potentially dangerous idea (see previous blog essay) and that a consumer’s “brand preference” and hopefully “brand advocacy” has to be built, rebuilt and re-earned every day, truly a daily regimen!