The Top 10 worst types of Advertising clients. Don’t be one of these?

Slide1The best clients respect the process, the agency and their own judgment.  And yet, most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting to great creative.  As a Brand Leader, if you knew that showing up better would get you better advertising, do you think you could?  Or are you stuck being one of these types of Clients?

I come at this from the vantage of a fellow client.  I’m not an Ad Agency guy, never having worked a day at an agency in my life.  But I’ve seen all these types of clients.  I’d like you to laugh a little and think “hey I know that guy”.  But I’d also like if you see a little of yourself in a few of these and if you’re into personal growth and improvement, challenge yourself to get better and stop being that guy.

I get asked a lot:  “So what is it that makes someone good at advertising?”.  I always think people are looking for some type of magical answer, but the answer I give is always very simple yet if you think about it very complex:  “They can consistently get good advertising on the air and keep bad advertising off the air”.

Most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting great creative.  If there are 100 steps in every advertising development stage and you show up OK at each step, how are you possibly thinking you’ll end up with a GREAT ad at the end?  Did you ensure that your team has a very tight creative brief that’s based on insights and instincts?  Were you fully engaged and motivating to everyone that touches the brand?   Were you a proactive decision maker who provided necessary challenge and direction in the spirit of making the work better?   Did you push it up and through the system and gain approval from management?

Here are the 10 Worst Types of Clients
#1: “You’re The Expert”: 

While intended to be a compliment to the Agency, it’s a total cop-out!  You really just give the agency enough rope to hang themselves.  As a Brand Leader, you play a major role in the process.  You have to be engaged in every stage of the process and in the work.  Bring your knowledge of the brand, make clear decisions and steer the work towards greatness.  

#2:  “I never Liked the Brief”:

 These passive-aggressive clients are usually insecure about their own abilities in the advertising space.  They keep firing their agency instead of taking ownership, because it’s easier to fire the agency than fire yourself.  A great Brand Leader never approves work they don’t love.  If you don’t love the work, then how do you expect the consumer to love your brand?

#3:  Jekyll & Hyde:

When Brand Leaders bring major mood swings to the Ad process, it’s very hard for the agency. The worst thing that could happen is when your mood swing alters the work and you end up going into a direction you never intended to go.  Brand Leaders have to stay consistent so that everyone knows exactly who they are dealing with.   

#4:  The Constant “Bad Mood”:

 I’ve seen clients bring the death stare to creative meetings where hilarious scripts are presented to a room of fear and utter silence.  Brand Leader must motivate all those who touch their brand.  Be the favorite client that people want to work for. Advertising should be fun.  If you are having fun, then so will your consumer.

#5:  The Mystery Man that’s Not in the Room:

When the real decision maker is not in the room, everyone guesses what might please that decision maker.   As a Brand Leader, you have to make decisions that you think are the right thing, not what your boss might say.  Make the ad you want and then find a way to gain alignment and approval from your boss.

#6:  The dictator:

Revel in ambiguity and enjoy the Unknown.   Great ads ‘make the brand feel different’.  If we knew the answer, it wouldn’t be different, would it?  If a Brand Leader comes in with the exact ad, then it’s not really a creative process, it just becomes an order taking process.  When you TELL the agency what to do, there is only one answer:  YES.  But when you ASK they agency, then there two answers:  YES and NO.

#7:  The Mandatories:  

Clients who put 5-10 Mandatories on the brief forces the agency to figure out your needs instead of the advertising problem.  You end up with a Frankenstein.  My challenge to Brand Leaders is if you write a very good brief, you don’t need a list of Mandatories.

#8:  The Kitchen Sink.

The “just in case” clients who want to speak to everyone with everything they can possibly say.  If you put everything in your ad, you just force the consumer to make the decision on what’s most important.  When you try to speak to everyone, you end up speaking to no one.   

#9: Keeps Changing Their Mind:

Advertising is best when driven by a sound process.   It’s creativity within a box.  And if the box keeps changing, you’ll never see the best creative work.

#10:  The Scientist:

Some clients think THERE IS AN ANSWER.  And the world of SEO and Digital seems to be encouraging this mindset more than ever.   Where you might see precision, I see navel gazing.  Be careful of navel gazing analytics. You might miss blue-sky big picture or the freight train about to run you over.  As a Brand Leader, you can’t always get THE answer.   Too much in marketing eliminates risk, rather than encourages risk taking.  That only helps you sleep better, but you’ll dream less.

You likely have the best intentions for your business.   And you likely believe that having a good relationship with the agency is crucial and you work at it.  But if you suffer from any of these, you might be holding back your contributions into the process.  

Here’s a presentation on How to Be a Better Client

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Do you want to be an amazing Brand Leader?  We can help you.  

Read more on how to utilize our Brand Leadership Learning Center where you will receive training in all aspects of marketing whether that’s strategic thinking, brand plans, creative briefs, brand positioning, analytical skills or how to judge advertising.  We can customize a program that is right for you or your team.  We can work in person, over the phone or through Skype.  Ask us how we can help you. 

 

 

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

Ask Beloved Brands to run a workshop to find better advertising or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.
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How to get an Assistant Brand Manager job

I got my first ABM job twenty years ago.  I remember how excited I was that first day and how frustrated I was the first few months at my true incompetence as I went through the Idiot Curve.  While things have changed tremendously over those twenty years, many of the same principles for landing that job remain the same.

To start with here is the job you’ll be Applying for How to a Great ABM   If that’s how you’ll be judged in the few months, than that’s how you’ll be judged in the Interview Process.

The first lesson I can tell you is there are more people who want to be an Assistant Brand Manager than there are jobs.   And that’s continuing to tighten in the tough economy as many places are going without.  So how bad do you really want this job?   Do you want it more than everyone else?   And will you do what it takes to get that job.  I remember interviewing so many times and not getting the job–I must have gone through 100 interviews before I finally landed the right job.   I remember one time, after 3 minutes the hiring manager looked at my resume and said “you have zero marketing experience, this won’t work”.  That one still stings after twenty years, but made me want it even more.  Persistence has to be the key.  If you are only half trying, then I have very little sympathy.   If you are completely immersed in the effort, trust me, you will eventually break through.

In this article, it will be filled with my biases, but at least you’ll get a vantage from a former CPG executive who was heavily involved in the recruiting of ABMs.

How do I get in?

There are five ways you can get in:

  1. MBA:  This was the #1 source of our ABMs.  It gave us the chance to have a consistency in our recruiting efforts, allowed us to have a focused timing for the hiring and even a consistency in starting dates so we could measure and compare ABMs.  One of the silent secrets no one can say is that an MBA ensures that ABMs are late 20s, rather than 22–which makes it easier for them to work with the sales teams.  Now, people always ask me:  “Do I need an MBA?”  My answer is “No, but it sure helps”.  It allows you to be part of the formal recruiting process, get in front door and be judged by that very process, rather than just a one-off hiring manager who is in a panic and doesn’t know what they want.  My question to you is “Can you do an MBA?” because if you can, I’d recommend it.
  2. Head Hunter and Recruiters: This was our second source for ABMs, especially when we needed ABMs outside of the formal recruiting process.  There are some Headhunters that specifically fill ABM roles and you should make sure you are connected with them.   If you are lucky, you can get a head hunter who gives you tips on your resume or feedback on your interview.  Ask for the feedback.  Stay in touch regularly.
  3. Networking:  As the economy has gotten worse, some companies have cut back on the use of Head Hunters and opted for using a “finder’s fee” to employees that recommend someone. So if you can connect with ABMs that already work at the company, they have an incentive to actually get you hired.  The advantages to networking is they’ll tell you the hiring manager, process and interview tips.  They’ll also alert you to when someone quits.  I would recommend you write down the 10-20 companies you want to work for, and get networking with other ABMs, BMs or the HR manager.
  4. Experience in the Company: A generation ago, many started off in sales and then moved over to marketing.  It still can happen, but it’s becoming less common.    If you try this route, push to get over the marketing quickly so you don’t get stuck in a role you don’t want.
  5. Job Posting:  Don’t wait for the postings, or you’ll be missing out on most of the jobs.  The HR department puts up the job posting, either because the company has exhausted all other methods.  The posting doesn’t always mean there is a job, but HR using it to fill the resume bank.  The new method for hiring is to go on to Linked In and put “We are Hiring” in job groups.
The Interview Process

On average, you’ll need 4-5 interviews to land the job–likely one with HR, a couple at the manager level and a couple at the director level.  If it’s part of the formal recruiting process, then you need to realize you are being judged at every moment, from the on-campus event to the potential dinner/lunch during the interviews and even how you act between interviews.  If they give you a mentor to help you, that person will also have influence.  In our debrief about candidates, there were just as many comments about things beyond the interviews as there was the interviews themselves.

Many interviews are moving to behavioural style where they might say: “tell me a time when you had a conflict…”  This means you need to translate all your strengths and weaknesses into stories that show you have experience in the given area.  Write down your answers in the form of Situation Action and Result. Learn how to tell the stories so that it answers the question and showcases your strengths.  Even if people don’t ask you the “tell me a time…” questions, it can be powerful for you to answer in that method.

You will still get asked “what’s your weakness?”.  It’s such a cliche question now, but it still gets asked.  I once had a candidate tell me they hated ambiguity, which was pretty much the death-nail.  Avoid the BS style “I’m too hard on myself” or “I work too hard”.  You just sound annoying.  The safest option I would recommend is “I’m not very good at negotiating” which is a skill that’s not really that important for marketing.

Here are the Interview Questions that I used to Ask:

  1. Tell me a time you used numbers to sell an idea?    You better have your story tight because your answer will be questioned one or two more levels to see if you really know your stuff.  Great Marketers can tell stories with analysis.
  2. What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done?  It really doesn’t matter what it was, but how far did you push yourself out of your comfort zone to find the creative solution.  Your passion for your idea should come through.    
  3. What’s the thing you’re most proud of?  When I read a resume, I want to see big accomplishments beyond your work experience or school.  Football, chess, travelling the world or charity work etc.  I want to hear your story and your pride come through.  Great Marketers accomplish things, and I want to know that you have a history of accomplishments.  Don’t tell just what you did, tell me what you ACCOMPLISHED!  
  4. Tell me a time when you’ve convinced your boss of something they thought wouldn’t work.   I want to see if you can make it happen.  This will show your leadership, selling skills, and willingness to push.  A great Marketer can get what they want.. 
  5. If you were Tim Tebow’s Agent, how would you maximize his value as a spokesperson?  I always took something in the pop culture news and asked how you would handle it.  I was looking to see how curious you are and how you could take something with very little subject matter expertise and put together a plan.  A great Marketer has a curiosity and can form opinions quickly.  This lets me see your thinking.  Pop culture is a great area that goes beyond books.   
  6. If you were on a team that solved a serious healthcare problem for Society, what factors would you use to price it on the global level?   This is a very thick question with many issues, especially adding in the global issue.  I want to see you think through those issues and layer those issues into your answer.  How do you handle the differences between North America and the Third World?   How important is profitability vs R&D vs compassion?   How would you leverage government, key influencers and where would that fit into your answer.  Great marketers can handle ambiguity and there is a lot within this case.  
  7. From your previous Interview with our company, what’s the biggest mistake you made and how would you now change that?   Great marketers are constantly pushing themselves to improve.  That starts with your own personal assessment.  I want to see that you have thought about it and now see a better solution.  It also puts you under a bit of unexpected pressure to see how you handle that.  
  8. What questions do you have for me?  To me this is one of the most important sections.  It demonstrates how engaged you are in the process.  The quality of your questions will help to separate you.  Have five great questions done ahead of time, ask about 2-3 each interview.  Ask deep questions, not surface questions.  Turn each answer into a conversation starter. 

Act like you want the job.  Show a bit of spunk and energy through the interviews.  Marketing jobs are a bit different.  Take a Red Bull before the interview.  Be leaning forward, make eye contact, be comfortable and dynamic in your personality.

Best of luck to you, and go for it.  

 

Here’s a presentation on Successful Marketing Careers:  

Other Roles You May Be Interested In
  • Brand Manager:  It becomes about ownership and strategic thinking within your brand plan.  Most Brand Managers are honestly a disaster with their first direct report, and get better around the fifth report.  The good ones let the ABM do their job; the bad ones jump in too much, frustrated and impatient rather than acting as a teacher.  To read about being a successful Brand Manager, read:  How to be a Successful Brand Manager
  • Marketing Director:  It’s more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing.  Your role is to set the standard and then hold everyone to that standard.  To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best.  Let your best people shine, grow and push you.  Follow this hyper link to read more:   How to be a Successful Marketing Director
  • VP Marketing or CMO:  It’s about leadership, vision and getting the most from people.  If you are good at it, you won’t need to do any marketing, other than challenging and guiding your people to do their best work. You have to deliver the results, and very few figure out the equation that the better the people means the better the work and in the end the better the results. Invest in training as a way to motivate your team and keep them engaged.  Use teaching moments to share your wisdom. Read the following article for how to be a success:  How to be a Successful VP of Marketing
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  1. How to Write a Monthly Report: One of the first tasks they assign the ABM is writing the monthly sales and share report.  Not only is a necessity of the business, but it’s your best training ground for doing a deep dive on analytics and strategic writing.   To read how to write a Monthly Report, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Monthly Report
  2. How to Write a Brand Positioning Statement.  Before you even get into the creative brief, you should be looking at target, benefits and reason to believe.   To read how to write a Brand Positioning Statement, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write an Effective Brand Positioning Statement
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits 

Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

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To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.

 

How to Write a Monthly Report? And why you should have one on your Brands.

“You run the brand. Don’t Let the Brand Run You”

Every brand should have a monthly report to track how the brand is doing through the course of the year. In fact, if you are investing in a brand, it’s almost negligent not to do one. While these reports can feel tedious to write, the 3-4 hours it takes to dig in is a good investment in discipline, knowledge as well as maintaining that touch-feel of managing of the brand. The report serves as a guide for all those across the company to stay on track with the annual plan everyone is committed to delivering. It gives senior management awareness of the grass-root issues, it enables course correction decisions at the senior levels, it exposes weakness and risk. It should carry action statements within the document that serve as a mini-version of the brand plan. And finally, it gives everyone a sense that the brand team has full control of what’s happening on delivering the plan.

The monthly report should answer the following Consumption questions:
  1. What’s the one-line story that captures what’s happening on the brand? This is your elevator speech for the CEO.
  2. What’s the dollar, tonnage or unit share, on a 4 week, 12 week and YTD basis? Focus on the share that the company uses–it can vary. Having all 3 time breaks allows people to see the trends.
  3. How’s the brand doing vs year ago, prior periods, vs the category or vs plan for the year? Speak in terms of both % and share point changes. Theory of relativity allows you to tell the story better.
  4. What’s the competition doing? Trends in the consumption, tracking results related to their brand funnel or potential action that’s rumoured in the marketplace.
  5. What are the top 3 drivers of the brand for the month or year? It can be a combination of consumption trends (sku, regions, channel, account, flavour etc), beneath the surface Brand Funnel scores, program results that are contributing to share, competitive moves. Explain how you’re going to continue these going forward.
  6. What are the 3 inhibitors and what are you doing about it? These are things that are holding back the brand. Expose weaknesses you’re seeing in the programs, potential distribution gaps, competitive moves that are beating you, changes in consumer behaviour etc. Explain what you plan to do about it, giving the assurance that you are running the brand.
The monthly report should answer the following Shipment questions:
  1. What’s the one-line story that captures what’s happening on the brand? This might be the story that you know you could back up, when confronted by the VP of sales in the same elevator. If it’s bad news, they will have to answer to the CEO.
  2. What’s the overall sales for the month, the quarter and how will it impact the year-end call? Senior management might adjust their own forecast or may change their short-term investment stance based on that performance.
  3. How are the sales by key account, by skus or by regions? Track on both the month and on a YTD basis. This highlights strength and exposes weakness.
  4. What are the top 3 drivers of the brand for the month or year? You want to highlight the accounts, skus or regions that are showing the most growth, explain why and tell what you’re going to do to keep these going.
  5. What are the 3 inhibitors and what are you doing about it? These are things that are holding back the brand. While the sales numbers are in the chart, start to explain the top line of what’s happening. Connect with the Account lead, ensuring they buy in to the statement you’re about to put. This gives you a chance to stay connected to what’s happening on each account. If your account people aren’t great at getting back to you, saying “I’m about to write a monthly report for the President and I want to know what’s going on at your account”. They’ll get back to you. Also, you need answers in the report to show that you are trying to get as much out of the brand as you can. Both short and long-term.

Digging In: As you are analyzing the mounds of data in front of you, you want to dig in everywhere that you can.

  • Start at the 4 week share for the brand overall, compare it to the 12-week, then the 52 week and see the major trend. This is the start of the story. Dig deeper on regions, channels and skus, figuring out the relative differences you start to see–either on the overall share basis (development index) or on the overall growth rate. Do the same with major competitors. That should give you the basis of your 4-week story and you can begin the document.
  • You next want to focus on the performance for the overall year. With both consumption and share, you want to give management a good forecast on what you think will happen. This can be in consultation with sales and your demand teams. The story has to be consistently told and shared with the senior leaders. If they sense a disconnect, it will look bad on you.
  • If you have good tracking studies, dig in on program tracking (advertising, sampling, in-store, professional recommendations etc) any brand funnel tracking (awareness, trial, repeat, U&A) that can support what’s happening on the consumption and shipments.
  • Drivers and Inhibitors are things that are happening in the market, not things that could happen. Ideally, they should match up to the Annual Brand Plan and the objectives on the brand. Think of these monthly reports like 1/12th of your brand plan–not only highlighting how the brand is doing, but what you are willing to do about it.
  • Keep it all on one page, forcing your writing style to be more direct. A senior leader should be able to digest it in 10 minutes.

When I was an ABM, I dreaded doing the monthly report. It was a chore that cut into my life. I always wondered if anyone read them. I was awful at the beginning and then became a master of the report. I kept thinking if I can just get promoted to Brand Manager, I’ll no longer have to do them. But as I made it up to the VP level, I read them in detail, even sending back questions for each brand. Then, I started to do my own version of the report for the President. I dug in as I had at the ABM level and crafted the story. Not only did it project a sense of control to my boss, it also allowed me to sleep better because it gave me the sense that I knew what was going on.

Here’s an example of a best in class Monthly Report (for a fictional brand):

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  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Positioning Statement.  Before you even get into the creative brief, you should be looking at target, benefits and reason to believe.   To read how to write a Brand Positioning Statement, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write an Effective Brand Positioning Statement
  3. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  4. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits 

Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

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To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.