Avoiding C.L.M.
…the Concept Limiting Move


“My take on the last concept test was that it covered the gamut all the way from A to C.” This comment came from a Division Vice President at a consumer marketing company. And it led to a broader, more successful re-investigation of alternative line extension concept directions. While we were struck by her disarming honesty, it also eloquently summed up a situation we’ve come across enough times to have seen some general patterns emerge.


While in business circles C.L.M. has come to stand for “Career Limiting Move,” in our lexicon we use it to describe a Concept Limiting Move. C.L.M. is something we are always on the lookout for and have developed approaches to avoid. After all, a brand gets to look at new strategic positioning or communication opportunities only so often. So, making the most (more…)

The Four Cornerstones of Positioning


Back in grade school my class got a visit from a fireman who made a presentation on fire safety. He had a nifty device that demonstrated what it took to create a fire. It was a big triangle and each leg had a word on it. One said “fuel,” one said “oxygen” and one said “heat.” When he snapped the triangle together a big red light that said “fire” came on in the center of the three legs. If he removed any side…no fire. And that was the lesson. A fire needs all the components to burn. Simple. Memorable. And relevant to a discussion of what it takes to develop a winning brand positioning.


Every positioning project faces its own unique challenges. We’ve worked with clients in a wide variety of categories and for products in different stages of their “life-cycle”: how to position a new product – how to revitalize a tired product – how to relaunch a “cash-cow” brand. The products were often entering or already in crowded, heavily competitive categories. Some were in newly emerging, poorly defined categories. Each different from the other, and yet, (more…)



Remember that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial where the person eating chocolate and the person eating peanut butter bumped into each other and the rest was candy history? Well, always on the lookout for keen strategic analogies, we also saw it as a great metaphor for what can be accomplish when you bring disparate elements together and allow them to interact in new ways.

As marketing disciplines become more specialized, information and knowledge can become increasingly compartmentalized. And, while that focused approach can be highly effective in addressing a specific need, it also may obscure “the big picture.” Maybe that’s why (more…)

A Holiday Break from the Strategy Break


Even though we believe “strategy never sleeps” we’ve decided that even our newsletter could take a break at this time of year. So, no deep dive on an issue of strategic insight this month…just a moment to reflect on the year past and on looking forward to the year ahead.


Based on experience, we can say with some certainty that there were some business occurrences this year that you did not even imagine at the start of the year. And here we sit on the brink of next year with the same probability that we will be facing situations and issues not planned for. To us that is the part of marketing we find most exhilarating. When there are challenges that force you to be nimble, inventive and insightful, you have the opportunity to really unleash your marketing ninja. So, even though it turns out that the famous “Chinese Curse” is apocryphal, we share it here as a wish for next year…”May you live in interesting times.”

We leave you with a few questions to help you contemplate the year ahead:
  • What is the one thing I didn’t get to this year that I will make happen next year?
  • What exceptional skill do I have that I didn’t have the opportunity to put to use this year…and where can I apply it next year?
  • There is no third question. This is a break, after all.

Best wishes for a happy holiday season and for peace, health and prosperity in the new year from all of us at The Masterson/SWOT Team.

The Other Sherlock Holmes…the Master of Inductive Thinking


Everyone knows Sherlock Holmes as the master of deductive thinking. He walks into a room, looks at the furniture, the books, the food in the cupboard and the cigarettes in the ashtray, then proceeds to tell you all about the suspect who lived there. Left handed, has traveled extensively in the Far East, is overweight and had broken his leg in a carriage accident, probably in Piccadilly Square on a Thursday evening while running from the scene of the crime. Quite an impressive look back in time and an analysis of precisely where that moment came from. But, not a clue as to where the villain would strike next.


Now imagine the other Sherlock Holmes, the master of inductive thinking. He would start with the same room and the same history, but be able to project from there a range of scenarios moving forward. Where the suspect was likely to go next, what he was likely to be after, who he was stalking and the best strategy for intercepting him and ending his reign of terror. Even more (more…)

Optimizing the Message – Tilting the Odds in Your Favor


We get this kind of call more often than you’d think. “Three rounds of concept testing and no clear winner. Each iteration has a little lift here or there but nothing breaks the bank. Is the basic strategy right? Are we working against a real insight? What are we doing wrong?” Our answer in most cases is…”Nothing. You’re doing it the way it’s been done for a long time. A bunch of smart people get in a room and write the positioning or messaging concepts, then ask the target what they think. But if that’s not working for you, maybe the question shouldn’t be ”what are we doing wrong?”, but “what can we do differently?”.


Coming up with a winning concept or optimizing communications content is, in one sense, an exercise in probabilities. Put a handful of concepts out there and chances of the ideal being in that batch are fairly slim. Do that several times and still, the odds of breaking the bank remain pretty long. And then the time pressure sets in and you go with the best of the batch…and get the results we talked about at the start.

So, how do you beat the long odds? By shifting the focus, and the time invested, from evaluating fully formed concepts to (more…)

You know the “what”…but if you don’t know the “why”, you won’t know “how”


The Attitude and Usage study was hot off the presses and we were gathered with the Client, eager to review the latest numbers. It only took about twenty minutes for someone to react with the statement we’ve all heard (or said) so often… “That just doesn’t make sense. I don’t believe the target behaves that way.” But the research supplier stood by their numbers and methods. Yes, that is exactly what the target did. But, they couldn’t tell the Client “why” that was their usage behavior.


We can all agree that the results of large scale statistical research and analysis are generally accurate. Certainly accurate enough directionally to be taken as a “given”…and as a starting point. Which gets us to a much more intriguing and important question…the one the aforementioned Client asked: why? Why did the target do that, or believe that, or say that? Quantitative, and even some qualitative, results tell you the “what” but they don’t begin to uncover the much more actionable “why.” Knowing the “why” provides the insight that can be leveraged to influence and change to your advantage the target’s attitude, perception and behavior. But, it’s much more elusive than the “what”.

We’ve found that uncovering the “why” behind the “what” requires (more…)

Using the present to shape the future


We were attending a major brand review held by a global marketing client. Like many such meetings, it went into great detail examining every aspect of where the brand is today…and how it got here. There was a lot of discussion about what “worked” and what didn’t. We reviewed the key decisions that led to changes and how some resulted in improvement and growth, while others did not seem to have much impact. When the meeting ended, we asked our client: “Where to from here?” He said, “I’ll ask you the same question. We seem to do a lot of looking back and tracking, but I’m not sure we’re getting the most value we can out of it. So, where would you say we can…or should…go from here?”

Great question…and one we’ve spent a lot of time answering. Left to itself a brand will continue, more or less, on its current course and speed (more…)

From good to better to…


We had a Client ask for a meeting to discuss the results of a recent line extension. Since we so often get called in when there’s a problem, we expected to hear it was a disappointment. But, what we heard was the launch exceeded all expectations and was considered a “huge win” by management. He then explained why he asked to see us. “Despite all that,” he said, “I have this nagging feeling that we’re leaving something on the table. My gut tells me there’s a bigger opportunity here and I just can’t get a handle on it. Can you help me think through our strategy and messaging to take it to that next level?” Imagine that. Nailing it on the first pass and going back and challenging what got you there. Doesn’t seem to happen often, and it does take a visionary (and confident) marketer to be prepared to consider a possible strategic change or redirection in the face of success.


Of course, we said “yes!”…and we uncovered an inconsistency in the brand architecture that WAS limiting growth for the overall brand. The result was growth for both the line extension AND the parent brand. Not to mention a very satisfied Client.

While this exact situation may not (more…)

The “Irrational” Target


confTable_213We’ve all been there. We were sitting around the table, reviewing the results of a research project into the target’s brand perceptions…and there it was again. We knew our brand was superior to competition in any number of ways: higher quality, proven positioning, better distribution e.g.. Yet the share of a clearly inferior competitor was holding strong, even growing, “eating our lunch” some might say (although not around that table). Something had to be wrong with the numbers. Or the target just didn’t get it. How could they prefer that loser of a product? And yet, they did. But it’s their right to ignore all of our efforts and follow their instincts, perceptions and desires. It’s our job to find a way to succeed in spite of it.


It’s human nature in a situation like that to blame the target. They don’t understand, they don’t appreciate the facts, they’re just irrational. Often the proposed solution is creating a “smarter” target. “Educate them. Give them all the facts we have. Make them as smart as we are about the products and they’ll have to see it our way.” Problem is… it seldom works out that way. It’s near impossible to create the idealized target who sees the situation (more…)