How to lead a motivating Year End Review for Brand Leaders

BBI Learning LogoThe better the people, the better the work and in the end the better the results. 

As we come up on the year-end, it’s that time of year when we nervously sit down with our bosses and find out how the year went.  For most of us, it’s one of the most dreaded parts of the job, for both those delivering and receiving the news.  But helping to grow our people is one of the most essential parts of the Leader.  No matter how good your strategy or product is, without the greatness of your people you’ll never achieve the results you want.  We all have gaps and we should all be working on closing those gaps.  Performance Feedback is an essential role in the growth of our people.  But without pointing those gaps out and coming up with a plan, then the person will never really improve.

A challenge to you: if there are any surprises during the meeting, then you as a leader are not doing your job.  As the VP of Marketing at Johnson and Johnson, I had one-on-one quarterly performance check ins with all my direct reports.  And when I realized that my directs weren’t following my lead, I made the Quarterly Review process mandatory for everyone on the marketing team.  It’s my belief that marketers can grow faster than we think–but they can only grow with timely feedback.  Those quarterly meetings were honest and informal discussions–which made the year-end review very easy.  I also emailed out the written review document 48 hours ahead of time, giving people the chance to digest all the thoughts and to come prepared ready to discuss each point.

As a Marketing Leadership Team, we spent our greatest efforts around managing the people. We talked people performance in every one of our weekly meetings.  The directors were encouraged to bring up people examples of those who were shining and those who were struggling.  If one of the other leaders were not familiar with those that were shining, we’d set up a process or special project where they could become more aware.  We ranked everyone on the team once a year plus a mid-year check in on the rankings.  You have to be diligent in managing your team.

Skills, Behaviours and Experiences

Marketing Skills: Brand Leaders should be measured on the Core Marketing Skills.  Below, I’ve outlined a Checklist of 30 Core Skills for a Brand Leader that can be used to highlight potential gaps that some of our Brand Leaders may have.  These 30 core skills fall under the areas of:

  • Analytics
  • Brand Planning
  • Briefs
  • Advertising
  • New Products & Claims
  • Go-To-Market
  • Leadership
  • Management

You can use this checklist in a few different ways:  1) to see if someone is meeting the needs of the current job–it could be used to set someone up for a performance improvement plan or as a motivation to push themselves 2) for someone who is close to ready for promotion, but you want to close on a few specific areas before the promotion or 3) for your personal assessment to see what you want to work on.

The rating should compare against their peers.  It helps to highlight skill gaps where people should focus their attention.  Any scores in the 1 or 2 are concerning and need an action plan.  The gap could arise because it’s outside of their natural skills or it could just be because it’s been outside of their experience they’ve had.  It’s tough to be good at advertising until  you’ve worked on a brand with advertising.

Leadership Skills:  Below, I’ve outlined a Checklist of 12 Leader Behaviours of Brand Leaders that can be used to highlight potential gaps that some of our Brand Leaders may have.  These 12 leader behaviours fall under the areas of:

  • Accountability to Results
  • People Leadership
  • Strategic Thinker
  • Broad Influence
  • Authentic Style

In the Leader Behaviour space, we all have blind sides that we just can’t see.  This is where the 360 degree feedback can help people to see how they are showing up.  I know that as a Director, I was a Driver-Driver that caused me to have behaviour gaps around Influence and Style.  I had the attitude of “it’s my way or the highway” and I wasn’t getting what I needed from the strategy and accountability I was hoping for.  Once I was able to identify it and work on it, I was able to see a big improvement in my performance and the results started to pay off as well.   Without closing that gap when I was a director, I would not have been promoted and would have honestly been unable to lead the entire marketing team.

Experience:  Many of our gaps as Brand Leaders comes from not having the experience.  When managing others, expect quite a few mistakes in the first few and you might not get fully there until your 5th direct report. When sitting in the hot seat of advertising, you’ll start to realize just how complex it can be–you’ve got to stay on brief, keep the creative team motivated, make judgement calls at every stage of the process and keep your own management on side.  And at every level, you’ll start to notice that the pressure gets higher–whether it’s push for results, the ambiguity or meeting deadlines through your team.  Each of these takes experience.

With  your best people, make sure you identify the experience gaps they have and be fair to them with the next assignment.  It’s far too easy to keep relying on a person’s strengths but it’s more important that you round out that person’s experience.  If they advance too far without covering off those gaps, they may find themselves struggling later in the job.  I’ve known newly promoted directors who had very little advertising experience coming up that all of a sudden found themselves on a desk with lots of advertising.  Their team even had more experience than they did.  Regular people reviews can really help identify the experience gaps that people might have. 

 

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 do training on all skill levels of marketing, and we provide coaching for leaders wanting to improve.  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. 

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  gr bbi picWe believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  Our President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

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 help train you to be a better brand leader.
Advertisements

While CPG led the way on TV advertising, they trail dramatically on Social Media

From the 1950s to the 1990s, CPG brand marketing teams had perfected the 30 second TV commercial.  Advertising was all about awareness and creating purchase intent by taking what you do better than your competitor and shouting it at consumers over and over again until you could gain market share.   Now in this new world of social media, the CPG brands seem to be struggling the most.   The CPG brands were starting to master that 30 second TV ad, with positioning work, a creative brief, animatic copy testing, full-scale production and then a steady media plan of GRPs.  

But, with digital media and social media, the CPG brands are the brands that are struggling the most.  

I grew up in the CPG space, working for J&J, Coke and General Mills, and I love CPG marketing because in that space the brands aren’t all that exciting so it always took marketing genius to make the most of them and bring a bit of magic to them.  

But as the media mix has dramatically changed over the last decade, CPG Brand Leaders have to recognize the change in the marketing model. For generations, they talked AT the consumer, but now they have to talk WITH the consumer.  In the old school marketing, CPG Brand Leaders were trained to try to INTERRUPT the consumer in a busy part of their day and then YELL at them over and over again.  It was all about AWARENESS-PURCHASE-LOYALTY where Awareness leads to conversion to Purchase which then the brand experience leads to Loyalty.  The new school of marketing is all about LOYALTY-AWARENESS-PURCHASE where the most loyal users will be the ones driving Awareness and the influence of the conversion to purchase.  It’s no longer about yelling at strangers on TV.  Instead, you have to engage your most loyal consumers, and they become the medium for reaching new users as they WHISPER advice to their friends.
Slide1

But that’s where the problem lays:  how do you get consumers to talk about brands that have very little talk value?  Yes, doing social media for Apple, Whole Foods or Mercedes relies on the fact that consumers are already talking about these brands at the lunch table.  

Types of Brands

But the reason why CPG brands used the type of interruptive style marketing style is because it suited the type of brand it is:  low involvement and low importance.   Looking at the chart below, I call this a COMMODITY type brand.  The other three types of brands are:  Essentials which are lower on involvement but high on importance like banking, pharma or insurance. Indulgence brands, like beer, chocolate or bubble gum, are the opposite of essentials as they have high involvement but really little importance.  And finally, there are high-profile brands, which are high on importance and involvement.  These brands are your favorite part of you every day life such as your iPhone, your latte from Starbucks, the restaurant you want to go or the latest movie coming this weekend.  These brands are the opposite of CPG, they are talked about at lunch constantly and they find it easy to work social media with a huge following and constant news.

Slide1

With CPG brands, the tendency is to put the effort into the brand messaging more than the effort into the creative/media.  However, if you think about it, maybe it should be the opposite.  Yes, messaging is always safer and more predictive, but if you need to counter the lack of involvement by making it a higher involvement brand, then it might have to come from the creative.  

Take the Dove brand for example.  For years, they did a good job behind the litmus test and talking about not being a soap.  They were a good brand, still relatively lost in sea of crowded soaps and hand creams.  Dove’s “real beauty” campaign took the brand to a new level far beyond what anyone could expect and is no longer just a soap but a brand that stands for the modern woman.   The real beauty TV campaign is one of the biggest viral ads in history.  And they have been able to get consumers to keep talking about the brand, through social media vehicles mainly through Facebook with 19 million consumers following the Dove brand.   Ten years later Dove is a legendary CPG brand.   While it’s still just a soap, that didn’t prevent the marketers at Dove from creating an idea for the brand.  

What is your Brand IDEA?

I define a Beloved Brand as “an idea worth loving”.  It’s no longer about a product, but an idea you can convey into the marketplace.  If you can’t get anyone talking about you, maybe the problem is It’s all too easy to sit there with your brand and say “who would ever want to talk about us?”.  That’s a cop-out if you ask me.  The challenge for CPG Brand Leaders is to re-think your brand.  Can you create an idea, a brand purpose and find ways to drive up involvement and importance for what your brand stands for.  Here are three challenges for you:

  • How do you stop trying to make a big deal out of your little points of difference and try to create a Brand Idea for your brand that connects with consumers?   Start with the consumer and find real benefits, both rational and emotional that you can stand behind, rather than just shouting out your product features through the TV.  
  • How do you drive up involvement and importance for what you stand for so that your get talked about at the lunch room table?    You have to understand who are your most influential consumers, the respected mavens within their circle of friends, and allow them to project your brand to their following.  
  • Can you build a Brand Purpose so that you can leverage that purpose as an idea to elevate your brand?   Purpose driven brands (The why) are a growing phenomena and a perfect fit for connecting with consumers through social media.  

While your product might not generate talk value at the lunch table, maybe your idea can be big enough that it will. And when it’s no longer about just your product, maybe your own idea will inspire you in the social media space. 

Maybe the issue isn’t just media.  But have you created an IDEA for your brand to stand behind?  

 

To see a training presentation on getting better  Media Plans

  

 

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

 

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 help you improve your brand or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

What comes first, the media choice or the creative idea?

slide15When I started in marketing, way back in the mid 90s, life was a little simpler because the media and the creative were both under one agency roof.  The meetings were simple:  you’d see your various TV script options, give some feedback and then the room would go silent and the account person would say “now let’s look at the media plan” and the media person would take you through a 15 page presentation on where else the idea of your TV script could go. You’d see some magazine, OOH and even some sampling idea.  There was no internet advertising yet.  

Then one day, our media folks from our agency were spun off, had a new name, moved offices and had a new President.  But still owned by WPP.  It now just meant we had two presentations and the Brand Leader now had to make sense of things and try to piece it together. About a year into that new relationship, I was sitting there confused and asked the question: “So what comes first, the media choice or the creative idea?”  The room went silent for about 5 minutes.  Then of course both sides talked over each other, both saying it was them that came first.  

Media is an investment against your strategy and creative is an expression of your strategy.  But both media and creative are only useful if they connect with consumers.  Great advertising must connect through very insightful creative that expresses the brand’s positioning and told in a way that matters to those who care the most. And yet, great advertising must be placed within the consumers’ life where it will capture their attention and motivate them in the expressed desired way to meet the strategy.  So really, the consumer comes first and strategy comes second.  But media and creative need to work to jointly capture the consumer and deliver the strategy.  

The Problem now rests with Brand Leaders.  While one could theoretically argue that if the Big Idea of the advertising is so big, it should work in every medium, that’s just not true in reality.  Some ideas just work better in certain mediums.  And yet the media people could also theoretically argue that if you go for the most efficient and effective media option, the media will do the work for you. That’s also not true. It’s too bad that ad agencies broke apart.  Because agencies could make a lot more money if they continued to answer this question on behalf of their clients. 

Here’s a solution for Brand Leaders 

The three questions you always need to keep in your head at all times:  1) where is your consumer 2) where is your brand and 3) how does the creative idea work? 

1.  Where is your consumer?

You should really understand who your consumer is, and who they are not.  You need to make sure you understand the insights about them, because it’s those insights within your creative that allow you to connect with them.  They’ll say “they get me”.  You should always be mapping out a day in the life of your consumer.  Get in their shoes and say “what does my consumer’s day look like and how will my message fit or interrupt their life?”  Take a “be where they are approach” to your media. 

slide111

2.  Where is the Brand?

First thing you have to do is consider where your brand is on the Brand Love Curve where brands go from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and all the way to Beloved.  At INDIFFERENT, it’s about announcement style such as mass media, LIKE IT becomes about separating yourself from the competition while LOVE IT and BELOVED you’ll start to see the growing importance of event marketing to core users or social media as a badge of honor to share with others.

slide18

3.  How does the Creative work?

The best advertising should draw ATTENTION, be about the BRAND, COMMUNICATE the main message and STICK in the consumers head long beyond the ad.

  • Attention:  You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising.  Consumers see 6000 ads per day, and will likely only engage in a few.  If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
  • Branding:  Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best.  Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumers view of the brand.  It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits to the climax of the ad.
  • Communication:  Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
  • Stickiness:  Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time.   In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own.  Brands have exist in the minds of the consumer. 

slide16But in the reality of advertising, not every ad execution will be able to do all four of the ABC’S.  When I’m in the creative room, I try to think about which of the two ABC’S are the most critical to my strategy.  If it’s a new product, I need Attention and Communication, if it’s in a competitive battle I need Brand and Communication, and if I’m the leader with a beloved brand, I need to make sure it’s about the Brand and it Sticks.   

What I recommend you do:

I hold off on making any media decisions until I see the creative idea and how it is expressed in a few media options.  With all the potential media now available, I ask for 3 executions of each big idea.  I want to see it in:

        1. Video Version
        2. Billboard 
        3. Long Copy Print

Sounds simple, but once I see all 3, it helps me to know that the idea has legs beyond one medium.  It also enables me to begin matching up creative elements to the most optimized media options on the table. 

The “Video” ask would work in TV, movie theatre, viral video or even on a website.  The “Billboard” could be traditional billboard on on-line billboard, website cover or even on the back of a magazine.  The “Long Print” would help with a print ad, social media stories or even a blog on your website.  

With 3 simple asks against each creative idea, I would cover off most of the traditional media options.  Now I can engage with the Media Agency, knowing how the creative idea would work against any of their recommendations.  I’ve done the work that the agency would have done back in the 1990s before they broke apart.  

Client Media Math

While the media agency owns the media math that blows your mind, here is some simple client side media math.  

  • Your production budget should be around 5-10% of your overall advertising plan.  If you have small budgets, that may creep up to 20%, but that’s it.  Every time you do a new piece of creative, the production dollars go up and the media dollars go down.  I’d recommend you focus on one main traditional media and have only one secondary option.  This keeps your spend focused. 
  • When it comes to social media, keep in mind there is no free media options.  Instead of financial capital, you are now exhausting people capital.  Just like the traditional options, I would recommend one lead social media and one secondary focus.  Do not try to be all things to all people.  
  • The other reason to focus is to ensure you do great executions and not just “ok”.  Pick the media that maximizes the power of the creative.  And don’t exhaust the team by spreading them against too many activities.   
  • Allow 80 to 90% of your media spend be on the highly effective highly efficient media plan.  That means 10-20% of your media spend can now go against high IMPACT creative ideas that you know will break through.  
Ask your creative team to deliver a Video, Billboard and Long Copy Print  

 

To see a training presentation on Get Better Advertising: 

 

To see a training presentation on getting better  Media Plans

 

 

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

 

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 help you with your advertising or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader

How to work the Five types of Media to your advantage

 

Slide1Back in the 1990s, we would have thought the 5 types of media would have been TV, newspaper, magazine, out of home and radio.  Life was simpler back then.  But since 2000, media has exploded and shifted dramatically.  Now Brand Leaders are confused as to what to do and how to leverage media to drive their brands. 

New way to think about the 5 types of media:  Paid, Earned, Search, Social and Home media.

 

PAID media is the Traditional (TV, Print, OOH, Radio) and the new Digital options. While paid might look like an equal opportunity to the equal spender, its not always the case. The more Beloved brands win in this space because they get asked first, they get better slots, lower rates, and more integrations.

With EARNED media, you need to create and manage the news cycle with mainstream news, expert reviews and blogs.  Beloved Brands are newsworthy and new Products are a story.  My own belief is that every brand should have a PR plan.  News is such a ubiquitous part of our current lives–you need to be part of that news cycle.

SEARCH Engine Optimization balances earned, key words and paid search.  Being a famous Beloved Brand helps to bypass paid SEO.  So if you are fighting against the power of those beloved brands, you need to leverage search as a way to break through.  On more complicated purchases (cars, electronics, travel) search is an essential tool for the consumer to gain more information before they get comfortable with the purchase options.

For SOCIAL media, we need to first stop thinking that it’s free.  It’s not.  It’s resource intensive to do it right.  And the more Beloved Brands have advocates that follow, put their views forward and share news on the brand that creates positive interactions that helps to influence others.  While you can build up your social, you might need to first build your brand so that the effort you do via social media pays off.  Nothing worse than an embarrassing social following.  I drove past a gravel pit last year that said “Like us on Facebook”.  What a waste of effort to get 19 people–mostly employees and friends.  How about “Rocks $9 a pound” would have been a better option.

HOME media is your landing page.  It’s a destination for some brands or could be a complete waste of time for others.  Depends on the type of brand you have.  Your website where you can use as a source of information, influence or even closing the sale.  If e-commerce makes sense for your business. 

Where is your Brand?

Before deciding what type of media you want, you need to first understand where your brand is.  I’m a big believer in the Brand Love Curve where brands go from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and all the way to Beloved.  If you start to look at how media might match up to that love curve and framed through a consumer buying system, we can see that when your brand is INDIFFERENT, your main focus should be using awareness and consideration to drive trial for your brand.  That would mean announcement style media (mass, targeted digital, event) as well as starting to play in the search area so you can help facilitate consumers looking for more information.

Slide1As you move to the LIKE IT stage, you want to begin separating yourself at the store level.  Yes, you still need the awareness, but you want to make sure that you drive at the crowded retail level to separate yourself from your competitors.  This could mean point of sale signage or even the influence of experts at the store level.  If consumers are satisfied, you should be pushing them to share that positive experience with others. Here’s where social media plays a large role, whether it’s traditional social media (Facebook or twitter) or the more influential social media such as YELP or IMDB.  As you move along the curve to LOVED and BELOVED brands as well as matching to the buying system, you’ll start to see the growing importance of event marketing to core users or social media as a badge of honor to share with others.

The problem I have with many media options, is people at the INDIFFERENT stage think they need a Facebook page.  Well, once all your relatives like that page, you might have 46 followers, which might expose how little people care about you.  On the flip side, I still am seeing LOVED brands pounding out 30 second TV ads that tell the consumers what they already know, all but forgetting the other media options available to them.

What Type of Brand are you?

When it comes to brands, you should understand where your brand sits on the degree of involvement vs importance.

For instance if your brand sits in the low involvement, low importance quadrant, it would be a COMMODITY brands.  This is where many of the CPG brands fit, always trying extra hard to take a marginal point of difference and making it a huge deal.  With commodity brands, the tendency is to put the effort into messaging more than creative/media.  However, if you think about it, maybe it should be the opposite.  Yes, messaging is always safer, but if you need to counter the lack of involvement by making it a higher involvement brand.  Dove has done an amazing job in taking a basic soap and making it stand for the modern woman.  It’s still likely a mass play, but you can begin using social and earned media here to break through the clutter.  The best marketers reside in these areas, because the work they do is essential to driving increased involvement and increased importance in a category that doesn’t naturally warrant either.

Slide1ESSENTIALS are high importance but still lower on the involvement side.  With my experience in healthcare and banking, we’ve looked at ways to drive up the involvement through Search, Earned and Social Media that’s targeted to influencers as well as those who might motivate others.  Many of these brands need routine to help substitute for the falling involvement.  For instance, the biggest issue with getting people to take life-saving heart medication is getting them to take it as prescribed.  The more work the marketer can do against routine here, the better.

Slide1INDULGENCE brands have high involvement but really little importance.  This is where beer, chocolate, and bubble gum reside.  The problem with this category is you’ve got rather large budgets driving against some of the most loved brands in the world.  (Coke, Bud, Mars).   You need concentrated and heavy mass media to break through the clutter.  In the new world, earned and social can be ways to break through, high on creativity to keep consumers engaged.

HIGH PROFILE brands are those that are high on importance and involvement.  These brands are your favorite part of you every day life.  Your iPhone, your latte from Starbucks, the restaurant you want to go or the latest movie coming this weekend.  With these brands, you should be perfecting all five of the media:  paid, earned, search, social and home.

Where is Your Consumer?

I know I know.  Everyone is so excited about the new media options, we tend to forget about the consumer.  But call me old-school, but I still like to start with the consumer.  The fundamentals of marketing always start with where the consumer is before you look at where the media is.  You can see how the buying system above might match up to where the consumer is on that Love Curve.  But even more so, you should always be mapping out a day in the life of your consumer.  Get in their shoes and say “what does my consumers day look like and how will my message fit or interrupt their life?”Slide1

In the spirit of “Be Where They Are”, you need to think about a Total Branding experience to the “Many Me’s of Me”.  While we are the same person, we do have various moods through the day, and your brand needs to fit my mood.  For instance, that rock quarry example of “Like Us on Facebook”, I was out for a nice drive in the country with my wife, in a mood to relax with no pen and no paper.  I might not be back to my computer for six more hours.  How would I remember to like a rock quarry on Facebook?   Not a chance. This is a great tool for putting you into the shoes of your consumer and maybe seeing how your brand’s messaging might fit into their busy lives.    I see ads and signs all day long that really showcase how little Brand Leaders are thinking about how the consumer lives their busy lives.   

As a brand leader, are you using the five types of media to your full advantage?  Use the tools above to begin mapping out your choices, based on where your brand sits, what type of brand you have and how your consumer’s life might influence your choices.  To read more on media planning, click on this link:  How to Build Your Media Plans

Are you Using the Five types of media your Brand’s full advantage?

To see a training presentation on getting better  Media Plans

 

  

 

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

 

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 help you improve your brand or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

10 Annoying Things that give Marketers a Bad Reputation. STOP IT!

x

I’m a marketer at heart.  In terms of career, it’s all I know and all I am.  I claim to love everything about marketing.   Well, nearly everything.  Here are 10 things i despise and even more importantly I believe give us marketers a bad reputation.  As Mike Ditka would say “STOP IT”.

  1. The price of popcorn at the Movie Theatre.  At the grocery store, a single bag of Orville’s popcorn goes for 29 cents a bag.  Yet at the movie theatre, it costs $5.99.  I get that the movie is using popcorn to cover the overhead.  But it really is blatantly treating your consumer like a hostage.  “Combos” (popcorn plus pop or candy) are even worse.  At my theatre, one night while I was 9th in line, I added them up and there is zero savings.   So I asked the kid at the front.  And the answer the poor kid had to give was “the combos are more convenience than savings”.   Wow.
  2. Freight and PDI on a New Car.  If you’ve ever bought a car, you have to pay something called freight and PDI.  It’s really an admin fee for shipping and preparing the car.   What’s frustrating is the negotiation process in buying a car.  This is just one more tool at the disposal of the sales people.  I know Saturn tried the “no price negotiation” strategy and it backfired.  Negotiations with so many moving parts can be a brutal experience.  And many times, you start off day 1 with such a negative experience that you’re mad at the brand. Why would you want that?
  3. That’s not all, if you call now…’   Yes, telemarketing is a necessary evil of the marketing game.  I’m not a fan.  shamwow-ad-tbiThe worst line ever invented is “that’s not all”.  That just means we’ve taken this low-cost item we’re trying to sell you and give you a second one for free.  But the rip-off is the “you just pay the shipping and handling” line.  You’re likely paying an extra $8=10 in shipping and handling, where the company makes a huge profit on that amount.  It’s never double the price to ship two items in the same parcel.  And the handling?   I wish these guys would stop preying on the defense-less consumer.  These techniques make us look bad.
  4. 100% Money Back Warranty…’except for’:   Last year, I decided to buy a Toshiba Ultrabook, as it was slightly cheaper than the Mac version.  While the Toshiba was a bit flimsy, I decided to buy the 3 year extra service plan from Best Buy.  I was told “don’t worry, this warranty covers everything, and while it’s being repaired, we’ll even give you a loaner version”.  I figured OK, I”m covered.  Six months in, the flimsy screen caught up to me and all of a sudden I couldn’t see anything.   Confidently, I took it back to Best Buy.  They gave me a loaner and a week later said “we can fix it, but the cost to you will be $400”  I said “but I have the full warranty”.  And they said “yes, but the warranty does not cover software, hardware or battery”.  HUH?   What else is there?   There is nothing else but software, hardware or battery to a computer.  Anyway, I bought the Mac.  No wonder Apple does so well in an industry like this.
  5. Paying $3 for headphones on the Airplane.   I know pretty much every airline is nearly bankrupt.  And I’d never invest a penny into an airline.  But the shift to charging the consumer for everything seems like the wrong way to go.  There have to be more creative ways than charging $3 for headphones.  I was recently on a flight that cost me $1700, which makes that headphone fee about 0.18% of the overall price.  Is it really making a dent in the balance sheet of your airline?  Or is giving the consumer a small token a bad thing?
  6. Email Lists you didn’t know you signed up for.  I manage my email as best I can.  For about 2 months now, I’m getting weekly Hilton Honors email blasts.  UnknownI finally un-subscribed.  Some of the un-subscribes are easy.  But others are painful with 3 or 4 steps to confirm I really want to un-subscribe and I’m not “mistaken”.  Email marketing is just the new form of junk mail.  I guess it works for 3% of customers so to get the money from those guys, let’s bug the 97% of customers who don’t want emails cluttering up their inbox.  Let’s make it so hard to tick off that “no email thank you” box that we can annoy our most loyal consumers.
  7. Paying more for a large hot tea versus a Small:  There are 3 component costs in hot tea.  The cup, the bag and the water.  The only thing that changes with a larger size is more water.  Any chance to rip-off the consumer.
  8. 3-year Cell Phone Contracts: When the technology changes every six months and you’re teenager drops (or throws) their phone at least once a week, having that long contract feels like a prison sentence.  I get the whole it’s the only way we can cover the cost.  But it puts all these phone companies into a position where they get the sale but lose the customer’s loyalty.  it’s not a way to build a long-term love affair but rather a growing hatred for one another.
  9. Gas Price Games.  I want one simple rule for gas prices.  You have to set them on the first day of the month and leave that price the entire month.   Have you ever noticed that the price of gas goes up immediately at the start of a crisis–in anticipation of prices going up.  So a hurricane hits, prices jump up that day just in case the oil industry is affected.  Not because it’s been affected.  Just in case.  Yet the prices don’t come down in anticipation of the world crisis ending,
  10. Call Center Cold Calls at home.  Even worse than junk email cluttering up my inbox are the phone calls coming from overseas.  I’ve signed up for the “Do Not Call”, but I guess the loophole is to now call from overseas.  You’re in the middle of cooking dinner and the phone rings.   And there is some 7 second delay before someone says “Hi Mr Robertson”.

These 10 things are very common to most consumers causing great frustration but also lack of respect for the marketing profession.  And yes, it is a profession.  What are the things about marketing that annoy you and damage our reputation?

How do we Get these guys to “Stop It”?

To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

 

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 help you improve your brand or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

Manage Your Own Career with an Honest Self Evaluation

brand-leader1This time of year is when you sit down with your boss and have the dreaded annual performance review.  It’s likely dreaded for a reason.  You hate getting feedback and your boss hates giving feedback.   It’s very common.  These days performance reviews feel like a bit of jockeying.  When you do you Self Evaluation, you avoid putting anything that can be used against you.  And when your boss does your Evaluation, they will avoid putting anything that will imply a promotion, raise or even maintaining your employment.   

In general, the feedback gets worse when you move up.   I think the Manager figures “they know what’s going on and am I really going to make a difference?”.   It’s almost easier to give that eager green Assistant Brand Manager feedback then it is to give a Senior Brand Manager, Director of VP good solid feedback.  

If You are Managing Your Career Then Give Yourself Feedback

Are you lucky enough to have a boss that puts a lot into the review?  Does your boss focus on ways to help you to genuinely improve?    Is there a plan you can follow that challenges you and yet help you to be successful?    Does your boss care about your long-term career success?  I sure hope so.  I encourage Brand Leaders to be fully engaged in the careers of their team.  The leader has to buy into the idea that the better the people, the better the work and in turn the better the results.  For information on how to conduct a performance review, read the following story:  How to Conduct a Performance Review.   

If you manage your career, (Managing Your Career from ABM to VP of Marketing) then you have to be willing to give yourself the most honest feedback you can.  Below is a Tool I’ve used in coaching executives that will help to give yourself a Self Evaluation against the dimensions that would make up 1) Leading and Managing and 2) Brand Stewardship.

Go through each of the dimensions and give yourself a score in relation to your peers.  A score of 5 means you’re the best in the department in a given area, a 3 means you are average and the scores of 1’s and 2’s would mean you have a gap. We all have gaps.  The real question is what are going to do about closing that gap.   

Leading and Managing

This covers areas related to how well you lead your team:  holding them to a high standard, coaching, motivating and showing up consistently.  

  • Hold your team to a consistently high standard of work in strategic thinking and planning.
  • Hold your team to a consistently high standard of work in execution in the market.
  • People Leadership:  your team knows the team vision and is consistently motivated by where you want to go.
  • People Management:  seen as actively interested in helping your team to manage their careers.
  • Coaching:  Teach, guide and direct your team members for higher performance.
  • Training and Development:  provides on-going skills development to make the team better.
  • Motivation and Recognition:  you are seen to actively provide positive commentary to team players, one on one and in public.
  • Consistent Communication: Both written and spoken, big and small.  Easily approachable and makes time to wander.
  • Actively Listens to Team:  asks the big strategic questions, not the small tactical details
  • Leadership during times of pressure:  results, ambiguity, change and deadlines.
Brand Stewardship

This would look at how you do in terms of the marketing of the brand.  That looks at strategic thinking, quality of the output, processes and how well you show up to peers.

  • Takes the time each week to engage in deeper Strategic Thinking to ensure it’s not just about execution.
  • Has Crafted a Team Vision to help align & motivate team.  Stewart of the Direction of the Brand and Gatekeeper to all things strategic
  • Challenges Team to stay on strategy, yet provides motivation for creative solutions.
  • Consistency in the Quality of marketing outputs:  Advertising/Media, Innovation/New Products and In-store/Promotion
  • Relationship with Agencies, able to motivate for better work.
  • Consistently in the relationships you’ve built with the Sales Team
  • Broad Influence beyond your team with core stakeholders:  R&D, Finance, HR, global.
  • Organization of the work flows.   Your team gets things done on time.  Deadlines, on budget, on forecast.
  • Processes:  you organize, challenge and manage the processes so your team can execute.
  • Manages Up:  Once aligned with the team you are able to effectively gain support from those above.  Seen as one to fight for your team.
Identifying Your Own Gaps

Using the two elements of the review above, identify what are the 3 areas from the Self Evaluation that you feel you need the most focus on?  Then as you build your own personal plan for the year, ask yourself what is your objective/goal for each of those 3 areas.  And then map out a plan of attack for the coming year?   It might feel a bit crazy, but going through the process should help you identify where you need the most help.   If you’re reluctant in sharing this with your boss, fearing how it might be used against you, then reach out to a friend and seek their advice.   If you’re not comfortable with that, feel free to bounce some of your thoughts off me.  I do this with many Brand Leaders.   And don’t worry, we all have gaps.  I struggled at different times in my career when dealing with the sales team and it took me a while to master the art of managing up.  You might be able to learn from some of my mistakes.  

To download a copy of the self evaluation, you can find a word version at: 

 

To read more on managing your career, read the following presentation:

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  Click on any of the topics below:

To see the training presentations, visit the Beloved Brands Slideshare site at: http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations

If you or team has any interest in a training program, please contact me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: I’m 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. 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. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth.  To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

 

Ten Resolutions for Brand Leaders in 2013

brand-leader1Happy New Year!!!   

As we approach the new year, it’s a great time to come back fresh from the break and challenge yourself to get better.  In the words of T.S.  Eliot:  “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice”.

#1:  Take a Walk in Your Consumers Shoes.  See the brand as they do.  It’s not just about doing research and finding consumer insights.  It’s about experiencing the brand as your consumer does.  Bringing the consumer into everything you do tightening the connection.   Consumers do not care what you do, until you care about what they want.  In 2013, be the spokesperson who represents the consumer to your team and watch the work get better.  When doing TV ads or digital ads, realize that the consumer now sees 5,000+ brand messages per day:  Would this capture their attention, would they get it and would they do anything with it?  Read the following article that puts the consumer front and center in what we do: Everything Starts and Ends with the Consumer

#2:  Ask Bigger Questions, Get Bigger Answers.  As a senior Brand Leader, it is easy to get so wrapped up in the details of the execution that you’re making the non-strategic decisions on behalf of the team.   You have just really become the “senior” Senior Brand Manager that really annoys your team.   Instead of providing the team with a vision, challenging on strategy or teaching the team, you’re telling them to make the flash bigger and change the sell sheet to purple.  Instead of telling people what to do, why not challenge yourself to sit back slightly and ask the really tough challenging questions.  You’ll know you’ve asked a really tough question when you don’t even know the answer.   To figure out the best questions, read:  Ask Bigger Questions, Get Bigger Answers

#3: Create More Love for your Brand and you’ll drive More Power and Profits for your Brand.   Brand Leaders are too logical for their own good.  So much so that it’s holding their brand back from being great.  To create more love for your brand, there are 5 sources of connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including the brand promise, the strategic choices you make, the brand’s ability to tell their story, the freshness of the product or service and the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you.  Once you have the connection with your consumers, use that power with retailers, media, competitors and even the very consumers that love you.  With added power, you’ll be able to drive bigger profits, with inelastic price, more efficiency in costs and consumers will follow your brand with every new product launch or category you enter.  Realize the magic formula and find more growth for your brand in 2013:  Love = Power = Growth = Profit.  To read more about this, follow this link:  Brand Love = Power = Profit

#4:  Focusing makes your Brand Bigger.  Lack of focus makes it Smaller.   I still see Brand Leaders struggling to focus.   They want as broad of a selling target they can find so they can speak to everyone, yet in reality they speak with no one.  They want so many messages, mainly because they don’t know what the consumer wants, so they just say everything they can think of.   And they choose every media option because they don’t even know where they are, so they try to be everywhere.  When you don’t make a choice, you don’t make a decision.   Great marketers make choices–they use the word “or” instead of “and”.   They apply their limited resources against the biggest potential win–with a focused target, focused message and focused medium to shout it in.  They look bigger than they are to those who are the most motivated to already buy.  To challenge yourself to focus, read:  Brand Focus Makes You Bigger

#5:  At every turn, ask yourself “DO I LOVE IT?”    Reject all work that is “just ok” because OK is the enemy of Great.  Moving your brand from indifferent to Like It is relatively easy:  good product, smart investment and doing the basics right.  But moving from “Like It” to “Love It” can be a herculean task.  If you want your consumer to love your brand, you have to love the work you do.  Look at the love Apple projects to its consumers through the magic of design, branding and marketing.  Never let something out that’s “just ok”.  If you’re indifferent, then you’re brand will be as well.   Challenge yourself in 2013 to lead yourself with passion equal to logic and find a way to love the work you do.  Read the following article at:  Reject OK because OK is the Enemy of Greatness

#6:  Find Your Point of Difference by Being Different.   Brand Leaders always try to find that nugget as their point of difference.   They get so logical and then try to make it a big deal in the consumers mind, even though many times the consumer does not care.  And yet, these same Brand Leaders play it so safe that their work looks and feels just like everyone else.  In 2013, push yourself to be different in your execution.  If the consumer sees 5,000 brand messages a day, they’ll only be attracted to something they’ve never seen before.  All the ‘me-too’ messages will be lost in a sea of sameness.  Whether it is new products, a new advertising campaign or media options push yourself to do something that stands out.   Don’t just settle for ok.  Always push for great.  If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?  The opposite of different, is indifferent and who wants to be indifferent.   Read the following link:  The Art of Being Different

#7:  Care More about the Careers of Your People:  The best way to connect with your team is to care about their careers.   If you are authentic i how you approach their development, they’ll do listen to your advice, follow your lead and give more effort than ever.  If they feel they are getting the training and development needed, they’ll likely stay longer with your company.   If they have added skills and motivation, their performance will be even better and if the work gets better, then the results will be better.  For you the equation is simple:  The better the people, the better the work and in turn the better the results.   To read more on how to help with their careers, read the following link:  Managing Your Marketing Career (Free Download)

#8:  Create a Culture around your Brand—Brand should be everyone’s job, not just marketing.  There are hundreds and sometimes thousands of people impacted by the vision, mission and values you set out for the brand.   While most people will think the Brand Manager leads the brand, it’s the collective wisdom of all those who touch it.   From Sales People negotiating on the brands behalf to HR people who pick the right people to various Agencies, right down to the Editor who works just one day on your brand.  Motivate them, embrace them, challenge them, lead them, follow them and reward them.   Great people make great work and great work leads to great brands.   In 2013, challenge yourself to realize that you need more than just you living the brand, you need everyone living and breathing it.  The best case study on how to drive the brand right into the culture is Ritz Carlton: Ritz Carlton

#9 :  Be a Better Client and Get Better Work:  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”.  It all starts with being a better client thought.  As David Ogilvy said “Clients get the work they deserve”.   If you are your agency’s best client, you are much more likely to get the best of their work.  To get better, read an article on the Worst Type of Clients

#10:  Be a Better Brand Leader.  Be more Consumer focused and live as though Everything Starts and Ends With the Consumer in Mind.  That’s why you got into this business isn’t it?  Follow Your Instincts and use the gut feel of Marketing.   If you have more fun, so to will the consumer.  Revel in Ambiguity and be more patient with Ideas.   It’s ok not to know for a little bit because that’s when the best answers come to the surface.  Actively Listen and  use more questions than answers.  Focus on the People and the Results will come.  Here is an article for you:  Eight Brand Leader Behaviors

I really hope you try one of these out in 2013.   And I hope you see the difference.  

Here’s to a Great Year in 2013!

To find ways to make your brand more loved, read the following presentation:

grAbout Graham Robertson: I’m 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. 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. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

You can always reach me by email at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  Click on any of the topics below that might interest you:

How to Manage your Marketing Career from ABM to CMO

Brand LeadershipAt every level you have to adjust to the new role.  Brand Managers fail when they keep acting like ABMs and Directors fail when they keep acting like Brand Managers and VPs fail when they don’t know what to do.  In a classic marketing team, the four key roles are Assistant Brand Manager up to Brand Manager then up to Marketing Director and on to the VP Marketing role.

Marketing Roles by Level

In simple terms of each of the roles, here’s a how to for all four levels:

  • Assistant Brand Manager:  It’s about doing; analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.  It’s not an easy job and only 50% get promoted to Brand Manager.  To read a story on how to be successful as an ABM, click on the following hyper link:  How to be a Successful ABM and get Promoted
  • 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

One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve which shows up at every level.  The basic rule of the Idiot Curve is: You get dumber before you get smarter.     When you first land the ABM job, there’s just so much to learn, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day.  It’s over-whelming at first, and yet you see all these other ABMs doing it so that’s even more intimidating.  But the idiot curve is inevitable.   It just shows up differently for each person.  No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve.  (But, please fight through the curve; you have to for your survival)  The Idiot Curve normally lasts up to 3 months, and then things just start to click.   And you’ll experience it in a new and exciting way you can’t even predict. 

But the Idiot Curve shows up again in the first few months of each level.  In the first few months as a Brand Manager, they keep doing the ABM role because that’s what they know.  They frustrate the hell out of their ABM.  They keep recommending and acting small rather than start deciding and stepping up to the leadership role.  At the Director role, they continue to be the Brand Manager.  They get nervous where they shouldn’t, whether it’s with senior people in other functions or even within marketing.  They prefer to keep doing, and in those moment there is nothing “to do”, they walk around and start doing other people’s jobs.  At the VP level,the first few months are lonely as you no longer have peers you can bounce ideas off.  Your peers assume you can do the job, and they don`t want to hear your problems.  At each level, you secretly feel like an Idiot.   You don’t want it to show, but in a way, you should use it to your advantage.

Marketing Values for All Levels

There are core marketing values you should instill and use throughout your career:

  1. Be Consumer Focused:  Everything Starts and Ends With the Consumer in Mind.  Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and think like them.  Steve Jobs said he never needed research, but he must have been amazing at listening, observing and anticipating how the consumer would react.  I’d still recommend you do research, but go beyond the statistics of the research and learn how your consumer thinks.  Whenever I go to focus groups, I watch their faces.  And when the research results come back you always have to ask “so now what do we do”.  The research helps you, but never gives you the exact answer.  Match up the needs of the consumer to your brand assets to figure out your ideal brand positioning.  The best marketers represent the consumer to the brand, NOT the brand to the consumer.  I always believe that consumers are selfish and deservedly so because they have money to spend.  As a consumer, I don’t care what you do until you care about what I need.  Focus on them, not on you.
  2. Follow Your Instincts:  Gut Feel of Marketing:  Listen to your inner thoughts, they are in there.   Too many times people fail because “they went along with it even though they didn’t like it”.  The problem is that sometimes your instincts are hidden away.  You get confused, you feel the pressure to get things done and you’ve got everyone telling you to go for it.  You get scared because you’re worried about getting promoted and want to do the ‘right thing’.  But your gut is telling you it’s just not right.  My rule is simple:  if you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand.  The worst type of marketer is someone who says “I never liked the brief” or “I never liked the ad”.  If you blame your agency or team after the fact, I have a word for people like you:  ”useless”.
  3. Revel in Ambiguity:  Be Patient with Ideas.  Never be afraid of an idea and never kill it quickly.  Watch the signals you send that make suck the creativity out of your team.   If you become too predictable to your team, then your work in the market will also become predictable.  Ambiguity and time pressure usually work against each other.  Don’t ever settle for “ok” just because of a deadline.  Always push for great.  What I have found is the longer I can stay comfortable in the “ambiguity zone” the better the ideas get whether it’s the time pressure that forces our thinking to be simpler or whether it’s the performance pressure forces us to push for our best idea, I always say, the longer I can hold my breath, the better the work gets.
  4. You Run the Brand, Don’t Let the Brand Run You: Be thoroughly organized, well planned and know the pulse of your business.  Every six months, I would find a quiet time to answer five key questions that would help me stay aware: 1) Where are we? 2) Why are we here? 3) Where could we be?  4) How can we get there? and 5) What do we have to do to get started?   In an odd way, the more planning you do, the more agile you’ll be, because you’ll know when it’s ok to “go off plan”  Stay in Control:  Hit the Deadlines, don’t give the appearance that you’re not in control. We have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other.  Know Your Business and don’t get caught off-guard.  Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.  Enjoy doing the monthly report because it makes you the most knowledgeable about the brand.   Stay conceptual; avoid getting stuck in the pennies or decimals.Process should enable us, not hinder us:  A good process can force your thinking towards a solution.  If it restricts your thinking, it’s not a good process.  But if it means, you free up your time for strategic thinking, instead of format thinking, we’ll move much faster.
  5. Be the Brand Leader not the FollowerThe more you keep your boss informed the more rope they may give you.   If they don’t know what you’re doing, they may clamp down and micro-manage you. . Ensure a policy of open communication with no surprises:  Make sure you keep your team informed and involved.  Keep senior management informed.  You must be the champion of the brand.  The best ideas are those that erupt out from the brand team–not from a top down perspective.  You have to be a self-starter that pushes your idea through the system, in the face of resistance or doubt.  And you will meet resistance from so many people in the system.  All the best work I ever did met a large degree of resistance.  You have to anticipate this and work through it.  One subtlety to ownership is your tone. When you don’t know something, speak in an “asking way” and openly seek out the wisdom and advice of your agency, your manager or your peers.  Put your ego aside and listen.  But equally, when you do know the answer, speak in a “telling way” that gets others to follow you, including senior management.
  6. Speed, Simplicity and Self Confidence:  a) Speed:  We don’t do things fast for the sake of it; we do things fast so we can take advantage of opportunities that have a window.  If you recognize an opportunity, realize that others are also recognizing the same opportunity.  So speed to market can enable you to win before they get there.  Also, doing things fast does not mean sloppy.  b) Simplicity: I’ve always said, “If you have a complex answer to something, odds are you are wrong”.  Keep it simple enough to explain, and so that the people who need to execute our ideas can really execute them.  c) Self Confidence:  As the brand leader, speak your mind.  After all, we are all just walking opinions.  Find a way within your leadership style to engage your team, agency or your boss in a debate to get to better answers.
Download White Paper on Careers in Marketing

**To download the Free Guide above, click on slideshare and at the top of the document you’ll see a Save/Download button.   
Other Stories You Might Like
  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. 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

Pick your Social Media vehicle and follow us by clicking on the icon below:

linkedin-groups-large             images-1              facebook-logo

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 Lead a Performance Review for Brand Leaders

The better the people, the better the work and in the end the better the results. 

As we come up on the year-end, it’s that time of year when we nervously sit down with our bosses and find out how the year went.  For most of us, it’s one of the most dreaded parts of the job, for both those delivering and receiving the news.  But helping to grow our people is one of the most essential parts of the Leader.  No matter how good your strategy or product is, without the greatness of your people you’ll never achieve the results you want.  We all have gaps and we should all be working on closing those gaps.  Performance Feedback is an essential role in the growth of our people.  But without pointing those gaps out and coming up with a plan, then the person will never really improve.

A challenge to you: if there are any surprises during the meeting, then you as a leader are not doing your job.  As the head of Marketing at Johnson and Johnson, I had one-on-one quarterly performance check ins with all my direct reports.  And when I realized that my directs weren’t following my lead, I made the Quarterly Review process mandatory for everyone on the marketing team.  It’s my belief that marketers can grow faster than we think–but they can only grow with timely feedback.  Those quarterly meetings were honest and informal discussions–which made the year-end review very easy.  I also emailed out the written review document 48 hours ahead of time, giving people the chance to digest all the thoughts and to come prepared ready to discuss each point.

As a Marketing Leadership Team, we spent our greatest efforts around managing the people. We talked people performance in every one of our weekly meetings.  The directors were encouraged to bring up people examples of those who were shining and those who were struggling.  If one of the other leaders were not familiar with those that were shining, we’d set up a process or special project where they could become more aware.  We ranked everyone on the team once a year plus a mid-year check in on the rankings.  You have to be diligent in managing your team.

Skills, Behaviours and Experiences

Marketing Skills: Brand Leaders should be measured on the Core Marketing Skills.  Below, I’ve outlined a Checklist of 30 Core Skills for a Brand Leader that can be used to highlight potential gaps that some of our Brand Leaders may have.  These 30 core skills fall under the areas of:

  • Analytics
  • Brand Planning
  • Briefs
  • Advertising
  • New Products & Claims
  • Go-To-Market
  • Leadership
  • Management

You can use this checklist in a few different ways:  1) to see if someone is meeting the needs of the current job–it could be used to set someone up for a performance improvement plan or as a motivation to push themselves 2) for someone who is close to ready for promotion, but you want to close on a few specific areas before the promotion or 3) for your personal assessment to see what you want to work on.

The rating should compare against their peers.  It helps to highlight skill gaps where people should focus their attention.  Any scores in the 1 or 2 are concerning and need an action plan.  The gap could arise because it’s outside of their natural skills or it could just be because it’s been outside of their experience they’ve had.  It’s tough to be good at advertising until  you’ve worked on a brand with advertising.

Leadership Skills:  Below, I’ve outlined a Checklist of 12 Leader Behaviours of Brand Leaders that can be used to highlight potential gaps that some of our Brand Leaders may have.  These 12 leader behaviours fall under the areas of:

  • Accountability to Results
  • People Leadership
  • Strategic Thinker
  • Broad Influence
  • Authentic Style

In the Leader Behaviour space, we all have blind sides that we just can’t see.  This is where the 360 degree feedback can help people to see how they are showing up.  I know that as a Director, I was a Driver-Driver that caused me to have behaviour gaps around Influence and Style.  I had the attitude of “it’s my way or the highway” and I wasn’t getting what I needed from the strategy and accountability I was hoping for.  Once I was able to identify it and work on it, I was able to see a big improvement in my performance and the results started to pay off as well.   Without closing that gap when I was a director, I would not have been promoted and would have honestly been unable to lead the entire marketing team.

Experience:  Many of our gaps as Brand Leaders comes from not having the experience.  When managing others, expect quite a few mistakes in the first few and you might not get fully there until your 5th direct report. When sitting in the hot seat of advertising, you’ll start to realize just how complex it can be–you’ve got to stay on brief, keep the creative team motivated, make judgement calls at every stage of the process and keep your own management on side.  And at every level, you’ll start to notice that the pressure gets higher–whether it’s push for results, the ambiguity or meeting deadlines through your team.  Each of these takes experience.

With  your best people, make sure you identify the experience gaps they have and be fair to them with the next assignment.  It’s far too easy to keep relying on a person’s strengths but it’s more important that you round out that person’s experience.  If they advance too far without covering off those gaps, they may find themselves struggling later in the job.  I’ve known newly promoted directors who had very little advertising experience coming up that all of a sudden found themselves on a desk with lots of advertising.  Their team even had more experience than they did.  Regular people reviews can really help identify the experience gaps that people might have. 

To read about the four levels of the Marketing Team, read the following document that can help you manage your people’s careers based on where they are:

And for any learnings for your teams on specific skills, I’ve created 14 Learning Sessions for Brand Leaders that can help your team to get better.  Most of these sessions can be done in full day sessions with people applying the skills immediately on their businesses.  It’s worth the investment and will be a highly motivating experience for your teams.  To read about all the marketing roles:  1) Assistant Brand Manager 2) Brand Manager 3)  Marketing Director and 4) VP Marketing

About Graham Robertson: I’m 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. 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. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth.  To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

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
Other Stories You Might Like
  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

Pick your Social Media vehicle and follow us by clicking on the icon below:

linkedin-groups-large             images-1              facebook-logo

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 Get Fired as a Brand Manager

BBI Learning LogoThere’s been a lot of great Assistant Brand Managers to be fired at the Brand Manager level.   So that would beg the question:  why were they mistakenly promoted?   Just like in sports where they are fooled by size, we sometimes get fooled by Charisma.  They seem impressive to us–whether it’s how they speak in the hallways or answer questions in a plans meeting.   We think Charisma is a great starting ground for a leader, so hopefully they can learn to be analytical, strategic, creative and organized.  Hopefully that Charismatic leader can get stuff done, stay on track, hand in their budgets on time, know how to turn a brand around, can write great brand plans, work with agencies and motivate the sales team etc…etc…  But then we find out that they can’t do all that stuff.  And after 18 months as a Brand Manager, we see they really are “just charismatic” and we remind ourselves of what we already knew:  Being a Brand Manager really is hard.

Brand Managers don’t really get fired because they can’t deliver the results.  That might happen at Director or VP level.  But at the Brand Manager level, we’d look for other Blind Spots that might be leading to the poor results.

I don’t want to see anyone get fired, so use this list to avoid it.  I’ve provided advice for each reason, hopefully helping you to address it pro-actively.  

Top 10 Reasons why Brand Managers get fired:  
  1. Struggle to Make Decisions:  When these Brand Managers were ABMs they shined because they are the “super doer’s”, who can work the system, get things done on time and under budget.  All the subject matter experts (forecasting, production, promotions) love them.  But then get them into the Brand Manager seat and they freeze. Slide1They can do, but they can’t decide.  They can easily execute someone else’s project list with flare, but they can’t come up with a project list of their own.   For you to succeed, you have to work better on your decision-making process.   You have to find methods for narrowing down the decisions.  When you’re new to decisions, take the time to map out your thinking whether it’s pros and cons or a decision tree.  It will eventually get faster for you and train your mind to make decisions.
  2. Not Analytical Enough:  Those that can’t do the deep dive analytical thinking. They might have great instincts, but they only scratch the surface on the analytics, and it eventually catches them when they make a poor decision and they can’t explain why they went against the obvious data points.   The real reason is they never saw those data points.  When a senior leader questions you, they can usually tell if they have struggled enough with a problem to get to the rich solution or whether they just did the adequate thinking to get to an “ok” solution.  Just because you are now a Brand Manager doesn’t mean you stop digging into the data.   The analytical skills you learned as an ABM should be used at every level in your career right up to VP.    As I moved up, I felt out of touch with the data so at every level up to VP, I used to do my own monthly share report just to ensure I was digging in and getting my hands mucky with the data.  Because I had dug around in the data, I knew which of my Brand Managers had dug in as well and which Brand Managers hadn’t even read their ABM’s monthly report yet.  Take the time to know the details of your business.  Dig into the data and make decisions based on the depth of analysis you do. 
  3. Can’t Get Along:  Conflicts, teamwork issues, communication.  These Brand Managers struggle with sales colleagues or the subject matter experts (SME’s). They might be the type who speaks first, listens second. They go head-to-head to get their own way instead of looking for compromise. Yes, they might be so smart they think faster than everyone, but they forget to bring people along with their thinking.  They start to leave a trail of those they burned and when the trail gets too big they get labelled as “tough to deal with”.  Listen more–hear them out.  The collection of SME’s will likely teach you more about marketing than your boss will.   If you don’t use these people to enhance your skill, you’ll eventually crash and burn.  And if they can’t work with you, they’ll also be the first to destroy your career.  You aren’t the first superstar they’ve seen. And likely not the last. My recommendation to you is to remember that Leadership is not just about you being out front, but about you turning around and actually seeing people following you.   In fact, it should be called “Follower-ship”.
  4. Not good with Ambiguity:  Some Brand Managers opt for the safety of the easy and well-known answers.  They struggle with the unknown and get scared of ambiguity. ambiguity_road_signBrand Managers that become too predictable to their team create work in the market that also becomes predictable and fails to drive the brand. These Brand Managers are OK–they don’t really have a lot of wrong, but they don’t have a lot of right.  You can put them on safe easy businesses, but you wouldn’t put them on the turn around or new products. Ambiguity is a type of pressure that not all of us are capable of handling easily, especially when they see Ambiguity and Time Pressure working against each other. Don’t ever settle for “ok” just because of a deadline. Always push for great. You have to learn to handle ambiguity. In fact revel in ambiguity.  Have fun with it.  Be Patient with Ideas.  Never be afraid of an idea and never kill it quickly.  As a leader, find ways to ask great questions instead of giving quick answers.  Watch the signals you send that may suck the creativity energy out of your team.  When you find a way to stay comfortable in the “ambiguity zone”, the ideas get better whether it’s the time pressure that forces the thinking to be simpler or whether it’s the performance pressure forces us to push for the best idea.  So my recommendation to you is to just hold your breath sometimes and see if the work gets better.
  5. Too slow and stiff:  The type of Brand Manager that is methodical to the extreme and they think everything through to the point of “Analysis Paralysis”.  They never use instincts–and have the counter analytical answer to every “gut feel” solution that gets recommended.  They have every reason why something won’t work but no answers for what will work.  I have to admit that this type frustrates me to no end, because nothing ever gets done.  They struggle to make it happen:  they are indecisive, not productive, disorganized or can’t work through others.  They are frustratingly slow for others to deal with.  They keep missing opportunities or small milestones that causes the team to look slow and miss the deadlines.  You have to start to show more flexibility in your approach.   Borrow some of the thinking from dealing with ambiguity and making decisions.  Realize there are options for every solution, no one perfect answer.      
  6. Bad people Manager:  Most first time people managers screw up a few of their first 5 direct reports.  It’s only natural.  One of the biggest flaws for new Managers is to think “Hey it will take me longer to explain it to you, so why don’t I just do it myself this one time and you can do it next time”.  They repeat this every month until we realized they aren’t teaching their ABM anything.   And they became the Manager that none of the ABMs wanted to work for because you never learn anything.  But as we keep watching great ABMs crashing and burning while under them, we start to wonder “you are really smart, but can you actually manage people?”. To be a great Brand Manager, you have to work on being a better people leader. We expect you to develop talent.  Be more patient with your ABM.  Become a teacher. Be more selfless in your approach to coaching. Take time to give them feedback that helps them, not feedback that helps you.  If you don’t become a better people manager, you’ve just hit your peak in your career.
  7. Poor communicators, with manager, senior management or partners.  They fail to adequately warn when there are potential problems.   They leave their manager in the dark and the information comes their manager from someone else. They confuse partners because they don’t keep them aware of what’s going on. You have to become a better communicator.  Make it a habit that as soon as you know something, your boss does as well–especially with negative news.  It’s normal that we get fixated on solving the problem at hand that we forget to tell people.  But that opens you up to risk–so cover your bases.  
  8. Never Follow Their Instincts:  They forget that marketing also has a “Gut Feel” to it, taking all the data, making decisions and then getting to the execution and believing it by taking a risk. Too many times people fail because “they went along with it even though they didn’t like it”.  You have to find ways to use your instincts.  The problem is that sometimes your instincts are hidden away.  You get confused, you feel the pressure to get things done and you’ve got everyone telling you to go for it. You get scared because you’re worried about your career and you want to do the ‘right thing’. But your gut is telling you it’s just not right.  My rule is simple: if you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand. The worst type of marketer is someone who says “I never liked the brief” or “I never liked the ad”.  At every touch point, keep reaching for those instincts and bring them out on the table.
  9. Can’t Think Strategically or Write Strategically:   As you move up to Brand Manager, we expect you to be able to think conceptually, strategically and in an organized fashion.  We also expect that to come through in your writing–whether that’s your Annual Brand Plan, monthly share report or just an email that you send.  Be organized in your thinking–map it out.  I do believe that every good strategy has four key elements: 1) Focus in either target or messaging 2) an Early win where you can see results 3) a Leverage point where you can take that early win and achieve a position power for your brand and finally 4) a Gateway to something even bigger for the brand.  Every six months, I would find a quiet time to answer five key questions that would help me stay aware: 1) Where are we? 2) Why are we here? 3) Where could we be?  4) How can we get there? and 5) What do we have to do to get started?   In an odd way, the more planning you do, the more agile you’ll be, because you’ll know when it’s ok to “go off plan” 
  10. Slide1They Don’t Run the Brand, they Let The Brand Run Them.  Some Brand Managers end up in the spin zone where they are disorganized, frantic and not in touch with their business. They miss deadlines, look out of control and things just stockpile on one another. They may take pride in how long they work or how many things they are getting done on their to-do list.  But they are out of control and the business is absolutely killing them. They just don’t know it yet.  My advice to you is to stay in Control so you hit the deadlines and stay on budget. Dig in and know your business so you don’t get caught off-guard.  Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge. Instil processes that organize and enable you and your team, so that it frees you up your time to push projects through and for doing the needed strategic thinking.  Stay conceptual–avoid getting stuck in the pennies or decimals–so you can continue to drive the strategy of your brand.  

Now let’s be honest: You likely won’t be fired for just one of these. You likely will see 3 or 4 of these come together and begin to showcase that you’re just not up for being a Brand Manager. But even 1 or 2 will keep you stuck at the Brand Manager level and you’ll notice your bosses are hesitant to put you on the tough assignments.

But the big question is what do you do about it.  My hope is that you can use the list as a way to course correct on something you might already be doing.  We each have a few of these de-railers, some that you can easily over-come but others that will take a few years to really fix.   Those who seek out feedback, welcome it and act on it will be the successful ones.  I hope that your company has a process of giving feedback or that you get lucky to have a manager that cares about your career and is willing to give you the tough feedback.  But if not, seek it.  Be honest with yourself and try to fix one of these per quarter.

I hope you can figure out the blind spots before your manager does.  

Use this list to ensure that you will be a successful Brand Manager career.
Ask Beloved Brands how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.
Read more about marketing careers in the following presentation:
 
 

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

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:

How to Fail as an Assistant Brand Manager

Every year, CPG companies hire thousands of the best and brightest to become Assistant Brand Managers.  Usually, there are big recruiting events that generate hundreds of resumes or companies use recruiters to send the best resumes they have.  The process for screening can be intense with  5+ interviews, including senior people, sometimes a test or a presentation to a group.   And yet, about 50% of ABMs won’t even make it to Brand Manager within the 2-3 years and out they go.  It’s a tough up or out process.

Here are the top 10 reasons why ABMs fail:
  1. They can’t do the analytical story tell.  They fail to turn monthly share reports into stories that can travel up the organization.  Their deep dive analysis is either too complicated that no one can follow the story or too shallow that they only do the “surface cleaning” type analysis that never really finds the real insight, just what we already know.
  2. They struggle to deal with the ambiguity of marketing.  The ambiguity boxes them in where they can’t think differently about a problem or it causes them personal stress.  They come up with solutions to get out of ambiguity rather than reveling in the ambiguity to find the best solution.  I once asked a candidate “how do you deal with ambiguity”.   Her answer was “I try to organize it because no one likes ambiguity”.   She asked me how I deal with ambiguity and I said “I revel in it.  I love it.  I struggle with it.  And let the ambiguity eat away at me until I find that great answer, not just settling for an answer because it gets me out of the ambiguity faster.”
  3. They are slow at moving projects through.  They struggle to make it happen:  could be that they are indecisive, not productive, disorganized or can’t work through others.  They are frustratingly slow for others.  They keep missing the small milestones causing the team to miss the deadlines.   In some cases, it’s not whether you are slow or fast, but really are you slower than your peers?
  4. They selfishly think about themselves.  This becomes the leadership derailer.  It’s about ego, gossip, over-stepping their role, going above heads politically.  Highly political, but not really politically astute.  Not a team player with peers or cross functional players.  The system has a way of isolating these people.  This raises a red flag for future leadership roles.
  5. They don’t work well through others.   Conflicts, teamwork issues, communication.  The odd thing about an ABM is you must work through a group of subject matter experts (SME’s) who know what they are doing, and you’re relying on these same people to teach you how to be a good ABM.   Your supply manager will teach you about forecasting, packaging approvals and even design tricks.  Your finance manager can teach you about accounting and the key indicators management looks for.  Your promo manager or trade marketers will teach you about customers, sales people etc.   If you don’t use these people to enhance your skill, you’ll eventually crash and burn. The collection of SME’s will likely teach you more about marketing than your boss will.  And if they can’t work with you, they’ll also be the first to destroy your career.
  6. They miss answers by not being flexible.  They fail to find the balance between what the head thinks, what your heart feels or even what the gut tells you.  When an ABM is questioned, a senior manager can tell if they have struggled enough with a problem to get to the rich solution or whether they just did the adequate thinking to get to an “ok” solution.   The style of a good senior manager’s questions is not always information gathering but rather designed to poke holes in the story to see that the deep rich thinking and even the appropriate struggling has gone on.
  7. They fall for tactical programs that are off strategy.  This becomes a tell-tale sign that they won’t make it to Brand Manager, where you will own the strategy.  They deviate from the strategy to choose the coolest tactic that has nothing to do with the goals or strategy.  You become the great executor, but not the thinker needed.  Marketing is a balance of strategy and execution.
  8. They hold back from making contributions to the team strategy.  Just a do-er.  They don’t proactively provide a point of view on strategy.   They don’t show the ownership needed to become a brand manager and people start to wonder if it’s in there or not.
  9. They settle for “good” rather than pushing for “great”.  While  of ABM jobs are executional, if there becomes a pattern where they just take the “ok” ideas, it begins to look as they don’t care enough.  If they aren’t passionate enough to push back, will they be able to do so later in their career.
  10. They are poor communicators, with manager, senior management or partners.  They fail to adequately warn when there’s potential problems.   They leave their manager in the dark.  They confuse partners because they don’t keep them aware of what’s going on.

The big question is what do you do about it.  On day 1, everyone has all ten of these derailers, some that you can easily over-come but others will take the full two to three years to really fix.  What really separates “great” from the “ok” is what you’re willing to do with these.  Those who seek out feedback, welcome it and act on it will be the successful ones.  I hope that your company has a process of giving feedback or that you get lucky to have a manager that cares about your career and is willing to give you the tough feedback.  But if not, seek it.  Be honest with yourself and try to fix one of these per quarter.   And grow into the role of Brand Manager before you get promoted.   

Best of luck to you.  I do hope you get promoted to Brand Manager. 

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
Other Stories You Might Like
  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

Pick your Social Media vehicle and follow us by clicking on the icon below:

linkedin-groups-large             images-1              facebook-logo

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.

 

Keys to Being a Successful Marketing Director

Most people are promoted up to Brand Manager because they are really smart and have a knack for getting things done.  From my experience, they get stuck at the Brand Manager level mainly because they are bad at managing people, or can’t get along with the sales force.  Promoting them up to Marketing Director just becomes too risky to the organization–they can’t afford to lose key talent, and they can’t afford to lose touch with the sales team.  And most Marketing Directors fail because they can’t stop acting like a Brand Manager:  too hands on, makes all the decisions, smothers the team and never lets them have their day in the sun.   One rule is at every level you have to adjust to the new role.  Brand Managers fail when they keep acting like ABMs and Directors fail when they keep acting like Brand Managers.                   

In a classic marketing team, the four key roles are Assistant Brand Manager then Brand Manager then Marketing Director or Group Marketing Director and then VP Marketing.  In simple terms, the Assistant Brand Manager role is about doing, analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.   At the Brand Manager level, 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.  When you get to the Marketing Director role, it’s becomes more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing.  To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best. 

The five areas that can turn a pretty good marketing director into a great one are:

  1. Hold your team to a Consistently high standard of work:  Rather than being the leader by example, I’d rather see you establish a standard and hold everyone and yourself to that standard.  .  For a new director, this is one of the harder areas—how to balance the freedom you give with the standard you demand.   The key is to be more process orientation than you might have been when you were Brand Manager.   You need to organize the team and build in processes in a way that produces consistent output, your team hits all deadlines, stays focused and keeps things moving.  But it can also show up in the quality of brand plans, execution and interactions with everyone specifically sales.  Be the control point of the team, and not let slips, errors or delays show beyond the team.  Delegate so you motivate your stars, but never abdicate ownership of how your team shows up.
  2. Consistency in Strategic Thinking:  Usually a marketing director has many brands, and isn’t necessarily writing the actual brand plans.  But, it will be the director that hears from the VP, the sales and the agency what each think they have the solution to the plan.  And yet, your brand manager has thoughts of how to make this brand better.   It’s easy to spin out of control, trying to please everyone–as the director is caught among everyone.  But it is actually the director who has to ground everyone, establish the brand’s direction, back up the choices it’s making and be the consistent voice of reason among the many wanting to influence the brand.  Learn to challenge the strategy–let them write it–but make sure it’s put through the test before it moves beyond your desk.
  3. Consistent People Leadership and Management:   Newly appointed directors have to stop acting like a “Senior Senior Brand Manager” and take on more leadership roles.  You have to let your team breathe and grow.   There are likely future super stars within the ranks.   We know you can write a brand plan, roll out a promotion super fast and make snap decisions on creative.  But can you inspire your team to do the same?  Junior marketers have high ambitions–constantly wanting praise, but equally seeking out advice for how to get better.  Brand Managers are still learning to be brand owners, many times younger than they should be.  It becomes the director’s role to manage the talent–giving equal praise and challenges for how to get better.  A great Marketing Director should be meeting quarterly with each team member one on one to take them through a quarterly performance review.   Waiting for year-end is just not enough.  Be passionate about people’s careers–anything less they’ll see it as merely a duty you are fulfilling.   Find energy in their energy.   These young marketers are hungry for improvement–and if you give them quarterly feedback, they are more able to make the adjustments and grow.  While the number one goal of a director is to make the year, the close #2 goal is to make the great people even better.  Identify the great ones, motivate, challenge and push them.  Also, step up when some individuals are not working out.   The marketing team relies on this.
  4. Consistently Showing up to the Sales Team:   While it’s not really acceptable for the ABMs and BMs to struggle with the sales team, it is kind of expected.  But at the director level, they have to be seen as one who is willing to listen.  Great sales people challenge marketers to make sure their account wins.   I’ve seen many sales teams destroy the Marketing Director because they don’t listen, and they stubbornly put forward their plan without sales input.   Great Marketing Directors should informally meet with all key senior sales people on a quarterly basis, to get to know them and let them know you are listening to their problems.  With this forum, you’ll get more of the bubbling up of problems–not just waiting for problems to explode.   If a sales people feel they’ve been heard, they are more apt to follow the directors vision and direction.   Many times, the debate can be healthy and help the sales people frame the story they need to tell with their accounts.  Be the one director that consistently reaches out and listens.  They’ll be in shock, and stand behind your business.
  5. Consistently Deliver:  A great Marketing Director hits the numbers and yet when they don’t hit them, they are the first to own it and put forward a recovery plan before being asked.  They have an entrepreneurial spirit of ownership, rather than just being a corporate pencil pusher.   Proactive communication upwards and with your own team.  Reach out for help across the organization.  Know your business and let everyone know what you know.  Be the leader that makes everything perfectly transparent–everyone will follow you.

When I was an ABM, I had to write the dreaded monthly share and sales report.  Many times, I’d be writing that up to 1am.  At that time, I said I can’t wait till I get promoted so I never have to write this again.  At the Brand Manager level, I edited my ABM’s report.   But when I moved up to Director, I started to feel out of touch so I decided I would write my own monthly report–digging into the sales and share to tell the story.  I kept doing it, even when I moved up to VP, and really feel I benefited from this practice.   No one asked me to do it, but it sure helped me to own the results.  Might feel like a small point, but it wasn’t for me.  To me, it was a competitive advantage.

So what makes a great Marketing Director?  You’ll notice one word that I purposefully put in each of the 5 areas:  Consistent.  That’s a trait I would encourage every director to take:  show up with consistency in standards for your team, strategy, people management, dealings with sales and owning the numbers.  With a bigger group of people, with a broader array of interactions across the organization and with a bigger business line on the P&L, anything less than consistent can really rattle the system.  Your team will dread inconsistency and won’t know which leader will show up.  They’ll mock your mood swings in the cafeteria.  You’ll become famous but for the wrong reasons.  The sales team won’t be able to rely on your word–and to them, that’s everything.   Senior Leaders will struggle with you–won’t want to put you on the big important business because it just feels risky.

So if you can take all your talent, all the experience you’ve gained and find that consistency in approach and leadership, and you’ll be a successful Marketing Director.

To read about what it takes to be a successful Brand Manager read:  Being a Successful Brand ManagerAnd to read about being a successful Assistant Brand Manager read:  how-to-be-a-great-assistant-brand-manager-and-of-course-get-promoted-to-brand-manager

To read a presentation on careers:

Other Roles You May Be Interested In
  • Assistant Brand Manager:  It’s about doing; analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.  It’s not an easy job and only 50% get promoted to Brand Manager.  To read a story on how to be successful as an ABM, click on the following hyper link:  How to be a Successful ABM and get Promoted
  • 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
  • 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
Other Stories You Might Like
  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. 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

Pick your Social Media vehicle and follow us by clicking on the icon below:

linkedin-groups-large             images-1              facebook-logo

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 Think Strategically

If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.  Yogi Berra

Slide1After 20 years of managing marketing teams, I’ve seen hundreds if not thousands of marketers–some classically trained CPG and some with just good instincts.  While 100% of them would proclaim of themselves “I’m a strategic thinker”, in reality only about 15-20% were actually strategic.  Yet, even some of the best implementers I know still want to be strategic.  I don’t get it.  Why?  I want someone to just finally say “I’m a really good tactical thinker and not really that good at strategy”.   I have finally started to ask some of my friends who are great implementers:  “Why do you want to be strategic?”  I finally got an answer that made sense.  “Strategic people get paid more”.  

Are you sure you are Strategic?

To me, the difference between a strategic thinker and a non-strategic thinker is whether you see questions first or answers first.  Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions.  They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out.  They reflect and plan before they act.   They are thinkers and planning who can see connections.  Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions.   They get to answers quickly, and will get frustrated in the delays of thinking.   They think doing something is better  than doing nothing at all.   They opt for action over thinking.    They are impulsive and doers who see tasks.  They are frustrated by strategic thinkers.  Aren’t we all.

But to be a great marketer, you must be a bit of a chameleon.  While pure strategy people make great consultants, I wouldn’t want them running my brand.   They’d keep analyzing things to death, without ever taking action.  And while tactical people get stuff done, it might not be the stuff we need done.  I want someone running my brand who is both strategic and non-strategic, almost equally so.  You must be able to talk with both types, at one minute debating investment choices and then be at a voice recording deciding on option A or B.  You need to make tough choices but you also have to inspire all those non-strategic thinkers to be great on your brand instead of being great on someone else’s brand.

OK, then you can’t just one day wake up and be strategic.  You need more discipline in the way you think.  Here’s some thoughts on how to force yourself to be strategic.  Here’s HOW TO THINK MORE STRATEGICALLY.  

Focus, Early Win, Leverage, Gateway

So Let’s see if there is a model that can help people be better at strategy.  When I teach people this model, I tell them it will force them to structure their thinking at first, but then it should just start to flow easily.  It’s like driving a car in England, it feels different at first, but then natural very soon after.

A simple way is to break it down into the 4 elements of a good strategy: there is usually a good Focus of resources on what has the biggest potential return, an Early Win that allows you to confidently keep going, a Leverage point you can twist and turn and finally a Gateway to something even bigger.  Here’s how the 4 stages of thinking works:

  1. FOCUS all your energy to a particular strategic point or purpose.  Match up your brand assets to pressure points you can break through, maximizing your limited resources—either financial resources or effort.  Make tough choices and opt be loved by the few rather than tolerated by the many.
  2. You want that EARLY WIN, to kick-start of some momentum. Early Wins are about slicing off parts of the business or population where you can build further.  Without the early win, you’ll likely seek out some new strategy even a sub-optimal one.   Or someone in management will say “it’s not working”.  You don’t want either of those–so the early win helps keep people moving towards the big win.
  3. LEVERAGE everything to gain positional advantage or power that helps exert even greater pressure and gains the tipping point of the business that helps lead to something bigger.  This is where strategy provides that return–you get more than the effort you’re doing from it.
  4. Seeing beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, which is the entrance or a means of access to something even bigger.   It could be getting to the masses, changing opinions or behaviours.  Return on Investment or Effort.
Looking at using “Focus, Early Win, Leverage, Gateway” in Real Situations

Lots of explanations on strategy use war analogies, so let’s look at D-Day and see how it matches up.  While Germany was fighting a war on two fronts (Russia and Britain), the Allied Forces planned D-Day for 2 years and joined in full force to focus all their attention on one beach, on one day. The surprise attack gave them an early win, and momentum which they could then leverage into a bigger victory then just one beach. Getting on mainland Europe gave the allied forces the gateway they needed to steamroll through on a town by town basis and defeat the Germans.   The allied forces had been on the defensive for years, but landing on D-Day gave them one victory and the tipping point to winning the war.  For those who struggle with focus, imagine that if the Allied Forces decided to place one soldier every 15 feet from Denmark all the way around Europe to Greece.   Would it have been successful?   Not a chance.

If you were to write the brand plan for D-Day, it might look like this:

  • Vision:  Win World War II
  • Goals:  Re-claim Europe, remove Hitler, minimize losses
  • Key Issue:  How do we turn the tide in the war effort in Europe?
  • Strategy:  Focused Pin Pointed Attack to gain a positional power on Continental Europe. 
  • Tactic:  D-Day, take all our troops and attack the Beaches of Normandy to get back on mainland Europe and battle Germany on an equal footing. 

While war analogies put some heightened sense of intelligence into marketing, let’s look at an example using Avril Lavigne and see if it still works.  If it does, then maybe it’s still a good model.   In 2005, Avril’s career was flat, a normal path for young musicians.  To kick off her album, she did a series of free mall concerts—and was criticized as desperate.  She was desperate and no one really understood the logic.  But think about it:  mall’s are exactly where her target (11-17 female) hangs out, allowing her to focus all her energy on her core target.  She attracted 5k screaming 13 year olds per mall—creating an early win among her most loyal of fans: those who loved and adored her.   She was able to leverage the good will and energy to get these loyal fans to go buy her album in the mall record stores which helped her album debut at #1 on the charts.  And everyone knows the charts are the gateway to the bigger mass audience–more radio play, more itunes downloads and more talk value. The comeback complete. Madonna has done the same strategy, except she seeded her songs into dance clubs for the last 20 years.

If you were to write the Avril Brand Plan, here’s how it might look;

  • Vision:  Recording Super Star
  • Goals:  New Album Sales, increase popularity, new recording contract
  • Key Issue:  How do we drive album sales for a slumping Avril? 
  • Strategy:  Reconnect with core teen fans to create momentum to trigger album sales
  • Tactic:  Free Mall tour to get most loyal fans to reconnect and buy the new album.

Avril Lavigne Wows Thousands At Free Indy Concert

INDIANAPOLIS  — Pop singer Avril Lavigne serenaded more than  2,000 fans during a free concert at a shopping mall.   “You guys are awesome,” the 19-year-old Lavigne told the  enthusiastic crowd Thursday at Glendale Mall.  Some people waited several hours to see the singer perform songs  from her upcoming CD and 2002 hits “Complicated” and “Sk8er  Boi.”   The half-hour acoustic concert was part of a 21-date “Live and  By Surprise Tour” promoting her new CD, “Under My Skin.”   People started lining up at the mall early in the afternoon for a chance to see Avril Lavigne up close and personal.

Starbucks experienced tremendous growth through the 80s and 90s, mainly because of the their coffee.  Starbucks quickly become a life ritual in the morning to wake you up. The focus shifted to build a broader portfolio of products around these two time slots.   The early win were a series of new products that made Starbucks seem big on innovation. Sandwiches, Wraps, pastries, cookies. All high quality. The leverage point was turning a coffee routine into a breakfast/lunch routine. The gateway is expanding the life ritual of Starbucks so that it’s now a broad-based place for breakfast and a light lunch, but still connected with coffee.  No longer are they just for coffee. Recently, Starbucks has been giving incentives through their “treat receipt” program to get people to come into the store after 2pm. 

If you were to write the Starbucks, here’s how it might look;

  • Vision:  Cherished meeting place for all your quick service food needs
  • Goals: Increase Same store sales, greater share of requirements from Starbucks loyalists
  • Key Issue:  How do we drive significant growth of same store sales?
  • Strategy:  Move Starbucks loyalists to lunch with an expanded lunch menu.
  • Tactic:  Light lunch menu, increase desert offerings.
Most Marketers Struggle with Strategic Thinking

However, even though all these marketers are saying they are strategic, strategy actually runs counter intuitive to many marketers.  You mean by focusing on something so small, I can get something big.  That makes no sense.  I better keep trying to do everything to everyone.  But that’s exactly how a fulcrum works to give you leverage.   Next time you’re taking off your tire on your car, try getting 6 really strong guys to lift your car or just get a tiny little car jack.  This is the same model for brand strategy.   Focus on your strengths, focus on those consumers who will most love you and focus on the one potential action point you can actually get them to do.

Many marketers always struggle with the idea of focus and always try to do it all.  And for everyone.   They worry they’ll pick a potential target too tight and alienate others, focus on one message and forget to tell all they know and miss a crucial fact or focus too tight on one part of the business and forget the others.  I saw a brief describe their target was “18-65, current customers, potential customers and employees”.  I said “all you’ve eliminated is prisoners and tourists.”  Slide1I get it that it can feel scary to focus.  But it should feel even more scary not focusing, just in case you’re wrong.  You always operate with limited resources no matter how big of a brand:  financial, people, partnering, time.  Trying to do everything spreads your limited resources and your message  so that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”.   In a crowded and fast economy, “ok” never breaks through so you’ll never get the early win to gain that tipping point that opens up the gateway.  When you focus, three things happen: 1) you actually become very good at what you do 2) people perceive you to be very good at what you do since that is the only thing you do 3) you can defend the positioning territory

Many times, Marketers fall in love with the best ideas—not always the best strategies.  This is where they tactical and they end up chasing down a path with a hollow gateway.  It’s crucial you always start with the best strategies and then find the best ideas that fit with those strategies, not the other way around. What you need to do, is try to map out all the potential wins, try to understand what’s behind that win, and if there is something bigger then go for it, but if there isn’t, then you should reject this path.  There has to be a large gateway behind those cool ideas, so you love what the idea does more so than just loving the idea.

 
Strategic Thinking:  Focus, Early Win and Leverage should lead to a gateway to Something even Bigger

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. 

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  gr bbi picWe believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  Our President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

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 help train you to be a better brand leader.

How to Be a Successful Brand Manager

Slide1After 20 years of CPG marketing, I have hired so many potentially great marketers–who were eager for success, brilliant, hard-working and dedicated.   But in reality, about 50% of Assistant Brand Managers get promoted to Brand Manager and less than 20% of Brand Managers make it to the Director level.

What separates the good from the great?  

There are two factors that I have seen in a consistent manner:  #1:  They get what they need.   #2:  What they need is the right thing to do.   Very simply put, great marketers get both.   The rest either fail on #1 or #2.  To get what you want, keep things simple and move fast to take the positional advantage.   What separates many Brand Managers is the inability to actually rely on their instincts, instead of just the textbook answer.   You get so busy, so deadline focused, so scared to make a mistake that you forget to think in a confused state of ambiguity.   It’s not easy to sit there without the answer, but sometimes if you just wait a bit longer and keep pushing for an even better answer, it will come to you.  Revel in ambiguity.   

One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve.  At every new job, including Brand Manager, I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day.  The basic rule is: You get dumber before you get smarter.     We’ve promoted some great ABMs and watch them struggle and wonder if we made a mistake.  But the idiot curve is inevitable.   It just shows up differently for each person.  No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve.  (But, please fight through the curve, you have to for your survival)  The biggest gap is that you forget to use your instincts.  You spend so much of your time trying to absorb all that is coming at you, that you reach for the basic process instead of your brains.   You might be working on a project for weeks before you think to even look at the budget.   You work on a promotion for Wal-Mart and then think “oh ya, I should talk to the Wal-Mart sales manager and see what he thinks”.  Or you say something in a meeting you think you’re supposed to say, but it doesn’t even resemble anything that you think, feel or believe in.  That’s the idiot curve.  And it will last 3 months.   And you’ll experience it in a new and exciting way you can’t even predict.  Feel free to let me know which way so I can add it to the list.  (I won’t reveal names)

Five Factors to Being a Great Brand Manager:
  1. A great BM takes ownership of the brand.  I’ve seen many BMs struggle with the transition from being a helper to being the owner.  As you move into the job, you have to get away from the idea of having someone hand you a project list.
     Not only do you have to make the project list, you have to come  up with the strategies from which the projects fall out of.  A good owner talks in ideas in a telling sense, rather than an asking sense.  It’s great to be asking questions as feelers, but realize that most are going to be looking to you for the answers.  They’ll be recommending and you’ll be deciding.  When managing upwards be careful of asking questions—try to stick to solutions.  “I think we should build a big bridge” instead of “any ideas for how we can get over the water”.  You just gave up your ownership.  I’d rather have you tell me what you want to do, and we debate from there, rather than you ask me what we should do.  I’ll be better able to judge your logic, your passion and your vision.  You run the brand, don’t let it run you.  
  2. A great BM provides the vision & strategies to match up to.  Vision is sometimes a hard thing to articulate. It’s sometimes easy to see times when there is a lack of vision.  You have to let everyone know where you want to go.  The strategy that matches becomes the road map for how to get there.  As the brand owner, you become the steward of the vision and strategy.  Everything that is off strategy has to be rejected and your role is to find ways to steer them back on track.  It’s easy to get side-tracked by exciting programs or cool ideas, but if they are off-strategy then you’ve got to park that excitement.  The expression of the strategy through ideas is a key skill–just as important as the strategy itself.  Learn to talk in strategic stories that can frame your direction.  Learn to think in terms of pillars—which forces your hand around 3 different areas to help achieve your strategy.  Having pillars constantly grounds you back in your strategy, and is an easy way for communicating with the various functions—the people you’re dealing with may only have 1 strategic pillar that matters to them personally, but seeing the other parts makes them feel as though their work is worth it.
  3. A great BM spends the effort to make their ABM as good as can be.  If you make your ABM better, then it reflects back on you.  Too many brand managers struggle to shift from “do-er” to “coach”.  They think they can do it faster than their ABM, so they may as well do it and they do.  The ABM really hates this.  But, they think their ABM will learn the hard way, just like they did.  They struggle to share the spot light, so it becomes hard to showcase the ABM.  They are too busy trying to prove themselves.  Keep in mind that the work of your ABM reflects 100% of who you are.  This challenge forces your hand on helping to develop your ABM.  Sometimes it can feel more motivating to just talk the positive stuff.  But if the ABM job is a learning position, then you have to provide areas for improvement.  Intuitively, you’d think the BM/ABM relationship would be constant “negative feedback”, but I see too many BMs afraid of going “negative”.  You need the balance.   My question is, that if you were coaching a gymnast and their “toes weren’t straight, wouldn’t they want to know?”  Then why are you not working on a relationship where you can get to that point.  Share with them better ways for doing things—which you have learned.  Spend some time teaching from your experience.
  4. A great BM gets what they need.   The organization is filled with groups, layers, external agencies, with everyone carrying a different set of goals and motivations.  Working the system entails taking what you have learned about ownership one step further.  You understand the organizational components, and then you go get what you need.  Again communication becomes key—you can’t let missed communications cause angst or concerns.  Also, its crucial that you get the best from everyone.  I have found it useful upfront to ask everyone for their best work.  It’s a strange step, but I have found it useful.   But you have to promise them you’ll support their best work. If you really have someone that’s good, you know they’ll respond to this.  The good news is that only 0.1% of people ask them, so it’s not like they’ve heard it that many times.  And let them know if they are or aren’t there yet.
  5. A Great BM Can Handle Pressure.   Ambiguity is one of the hardest.  This is where patience and composure come into play as you sort through the issues.  The consequences of not remaining composed is likely a bad decision.   If the Results don’t come in, it can be frustrating.  Reach for your logic as you re-group.  Force yourself to course correct, rather than continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat.  Relationships.  Be pro-active in making the first move.  Try to figure out what motivates as well as what annoys them.   Most times, the common ground is not that far away.  Time Pressure.  It’s similar to the ambiguity.  Be organized, disciplined and work the system so it doesn’t get in your way.   Be calm, so you continue to make the right decisions.

Love the Magic of Marketing–let it breathe and let it come to life.

Don’t just do the job, do it with all your passion.   Love it please so we can love the work that comes from your passion.   Or else just become an actuary and let someone else take your spot please.

Love what you do.  Live Why You Do it

To read the related story on how to be a succesful Assistant Brand Manager click on this:  Beloved Brands Story on Being a Succesful Assistant Brand Manager or read the following presentation:

Other Roles You May Be Interested In
  • Assistant Brand Manager:  It’s about doing; analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.  It’s not an easy job and only 50% get promoted to Brand Manager.  To read a story on how to be successful as an ABM, click on the following hyper link:  How to be a Successful ABM and get Promoted
  • 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
 

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

 

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 us how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.