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:

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8 simple ways to be a better Brand Leader

Brand LeadershipAs we push to be great Brand Leaders, here are 8 ways to push yourself to be better. This is from the 20 years of hiring, training, encouraging and even firing Brand Leaders.  Here are 8 things that separate amazing from OK.

A great Brand Leader takes ownership of the brand.  I’ve seen many Brand Leaders 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 then 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 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 then you ask me what we should do.  I’ll be better able to judge your logic, your passion and your vision. 

A great Brand Leader provides the vision & strategies to drive results. 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 they have to be rejected.  The communication of strategy is a key skill.  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—they 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.

A great Brand Leader 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 people for their best.  It’s a strange step, but I have found it useful.   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. 

A great Brand Leader can handle pressure.  There are Four Types of Pressure that Brand Leaders Face

  1. 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. 
  2. 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 then continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat.  
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 

A great Brand Leader can 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 Brand Leader, this is one of the harder areas—how to balance the freedom you give with the standard you demand.    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.

A great Brand Leader is an outstanding leader of people by leveraging Consistent People Leadership and Management.   Newly appointed Brand Leaders have taken 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  Brand Leader 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.  

A Great Brand Leader shows up Consistently to the Sales Team:   As a Brand Leader, you 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 Brand Leader because they don’t listen, and they stubbornly put forward their plan without sales input.   Great Brand Leaders 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 Brand Leader that consistently reaches out and listens.  They’ll be in shock, and stand behind your business.

A Great Brand Leader Delivers Consistent Results:  A great Brand Leader 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.

You might also enjoy this article

Eight Leader Behaviors to Be Great Brand Leader

Challenge Yourself: If you knew that showing up different would drive better Brand results, then could you show up different?

 

Follow me on Twitter @grayrobertson1

 

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:

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

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

 

Be a Better Brand Leader by saying “Let’s cut to the Chase” more often

Brand LeadershipCut to the Chase and Avoid the Brand Spin

Stop being that brand that keeps spinning and gets nothing done.  Within most brand portfolios, there are those problem brands that just seem to spiral downward out of control.  They spin, and spin and spin.  Nothing gets done.  Decisions don’t get made.  They try something.  It doesn’t work immediately.  So they change course.  And spin some more.  Everyone thinks they have the answer, but no-one shares the same answer.  And more spin.

What’s missing is a leader who will stand up to everyone on the team say “LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE”

Cut to the Chase with the The 40/70 Rule

I love the Colin Powell rule that when you are facing a tough decision, you need at least 40% of the information, but oddly enough, you should make the decision with no more than 70%.  Once you’re in that 40-70% zone, go with your gut and make the decision.  

If you make a decision with less than 40% of the information, you are shooting from the hip and you will make too many mistakes. The 70% part of the decision-making rule is what surprises many Brand Leaders. They often think that they need more than seventy percent of the information before they can make a decision. A lot of Brand Leaders want as much data as they can.  Many times they hope the data will make the decision for them.  But if you want the data to make the decision, then why do we need you in the Brand Leader role?   Why don’t we just put the Market Research person in your job?  We could pay them less and just go with the data output from the research 100% of the time.

But, in a highly competitive market, if you wait to get more than seventy percent, then the opportunity has usually passed and someone else has beaten you to the punch. A key element that supports Powell’s rule is the notion that intuition is what separates the great leaders from the average ones. Intuition is what allows us to make tough decisions, but many of us ignore our gut.  Relying on too much information can stiffen a leader, paralyzing the team to seek out more data.   They become afraid to make decisions.  Always keep in mind that marketing is half science and half art.  Don’t forget about the art.  People who want certainty in their decisions end up working for other people, not leading.

So, next time you feel your team has 40-70% of the information say “LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE” and see if you can push them to making the best decision they can make.  

Cut to the Chase with Tough Questions

One of the big spin factors is lack of alignment. Everyone at the table has their own view of what needs to be done.  The team ends up paralyzed with indecision.  A team moving together towards a common strategy, even if it is only a pretty good strategy, is much smarter than a team moving in three directions, with each thinking they have an amazing strategy.

Align first on the Key Issues of the Brand. In terms of analysis, there are so many ways to do it but my preference is to use a force-field analysis of Drivers and Inhibitors. Basically, drivers are what is pushing the brand and inhibitors is what’s holding it back. These are happening NOW.  Then add in the a future looking analysis of Risks and Opportunities.  These could happen in the future.  The simplicity of this analysis helps the next stage of your brand plan, and set up the Key Issues which are focused on finding ways to continue/enhance the growth drivers, minimize or reverse the inhibitors, avoid the risks and take advantage of the opportunities.

Here’s an example of How to do a Key Issues Deck.  This is something I do with clients all the time and after a 1 or 2 day session, they can feel they are aligned.

 

Ask the Tough Questions of the team.  Tough questions make a team pause and start thinking instead of just doing.  I always frame the Key Issues in question form, believing the answers to those questions become the strategy.  But I believe that 90% of your effort should go into asking the big challenging questions that startle and yet motivate the team.  The better the question you ask, the better the strategy.   For instance, if I wanted to lose a few pounds, I could ask the question: “how can I lose weight?” which is not really a good enough question to generate rich insightful strategies.   But if I were to ask a better question: “what exercise program would help me successfully lose 10 pounds and work with my busy life?” all of a sudden better strategies start coming to the surface.  

Use these tough questions that force tough solutions by saying to your team: “LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE”

Cut to the Chase and Find Your Difference

Part of the spin zone brands go through is they never find their own point of difference.  They over-react to what competitors are doing, copying them hoping to neutralize what advantage they have.  But by trying to be everything that the competitor is doing, they end being nothing really.   USP 2.0

The most Beloved Brands are either better, different or cheaper.  Or else not around for very long.  in a crowded market, it’s really hard to be genuinely be significantly better.  And unless your entire company is set up to be more efficient than everyone else, it really leaves different.   But as you push for being different, you want to be smart and different.  Use this venn diagram to brainstorm points of difference.   

Then challenge the team to find their Good and Different.  Use the very simple map below to see where your ideas fall. 

good-vs-different

  • Good But Not Different:  These do very well in tests mainly because consumers have seen it before and check the right boxes in research.   In market, it gets off to a pretty good start—since it still seems so familiar.   However, once challenged in the market by a competitor, it falters because people start to realize it is no different at all.  So they go back to their usual brand and your launch starts to go flat.  This option offers limited potential.
  • Good But Different:  These don’t always test well:  consumers don’t really know what to make of it.   Even after launched, it takes time to gain momentum, having to explain the story with potential investment and effort to really make the difference come to life.  But once consumers start to see the differences and how it meets their needs, they equate different with “good”.   It begins to gain share and generates profits for the brand.   This option offers long-term sustainability.
  • Not Good and Not Different:  These are the safest of safe.  Go back into the R&D lab and pick the best one you have–even if it’s not very good.   The tallest of midgets.  They do pretty well in test because of the familiarity.   In market, it gets off to a pretty good start, because it looks the same as what’s already in the market.  But pretty soon, consumers realize that it’s the same but even worse, so it fails dramatically.   What appears safe is actually highly risky.  You should have followed your instincts and not launched.  This option is a boring failure.
  • Different but Not that Good:  Sometimes we get focused on the product first:  it offers superior technology, but not really meeting an unmet need.  So we launch what is different for the sake of being different.  It does poorly in testing.  Everyone along the way wonders why we are launching.   But in the end, consumers don’t really care about your point of difference.  And it fails.  The better mousetrap that no one cares about.

Look to the grid above and say “LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE” and push your team to find something that is Good and Different.

What is Your “Let’s Cut to the Chase” Moment?

 

To read more about how to create a Beloved Brand:

 

Skills to Challenge Your Brand Leaders:  
  1. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits 

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

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

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

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

Starbucks creates Magic at Christmas

starbucks 8If you have been into a Starbucks the last few weeks, you’ll certainly feel the magic of the holiday season.   Every Starbucks feels well-decorated but never over stated.   You can smell peppermint and ginger as soon as you walk in.

If you want to add some flavor to your regular Latte, you can go for a Caramel Brûlé, Eggnog or Peppermint.  And if you want to try one of the Christmas deserts, there’s Gingerbread loafs, Frosted Snowman cookies or the Cranberry Bliss Bar.   Better yet, have you had one of those incredible Peppermint Brownie Cake Pops?

starbucks

 

Starbucks came up with a 12 days of Christmas campaign that started on December 1st, which included special offers on ceramic mugs, gifts and free coffee.

starbucks11

When you reach the Beloved stage like Starbucks, it becomes all about the experience.  While you can continue to attack yourself before others can attack you, it’s also about maintaining the love by creating a bit of magic to surprise and delight your most loyal consumers.  For a brand that taps into routine, having a regular set of drinks and desserts around Christmas gives the consumers some festive favorites to liven up the routine a little bit.

Slide1

From a pure business point of view, Christmas starts November 1st all the way to December 31st, which means one-sixth of your annual sales.   On top of that Starbucks now has captured the entire calendar with specials around Valentines, St Patty’s day, Easter, Summer Drinks and Halloween.

To read on how to make your brand into a Beloved and Powerful brand, view the following presentation:

 

For all those who have followed the Beloved Brands blog, I want to thank you for reading and I want to wish you each of you Happy Holidays and I hope that you have an amazing year in 2013.

Slide1

 

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

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

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:

I Love Big Ideas that start off Small and Cost very little

brand-leader1I have always loved when you see a big idea come out of the smallest of ideas.   As Brand Leaders, sometimes we complain about a lot of things:  no money, we don’t have any new products in our pipeline, our agency keeps presenting the same old thing and we are too conservative to do the really cool stuff.   While many Brand Leaders are struggling with how to use new media too many times they opt for the new conventions they see everyone else doing so they say “Like Us on Facebook” approach that generates 38 likes, or they start their own Twitter account and tweet out something boring every six months.  Instead, you should think about the new media as liberating in that you can use even more creativity than just trying to follow along what everyone is doing.  If you want your brand to generate more love among your base of users, finding ways that surprise and delight them is a great starting point.    Consumers will feel more connected with you.  Here’s a few different takes on creative solutions that started small and grew, trying to inspire you a little bit while you sit at your desk going “so what can we do”. 

Take a chance.  Be inspired.

Volkswagen “Fast Lanes”

When you have very little money, I always say “Act Like a Blowfish” blowfishand try to find a way to appear bigger than you really are.  That may require more creativity than dollars.  It might mean something a bit odd, compared to the conventional 30 second TV ad. If you have no money, tell me you couldn’t have done this one.  It must have cost only $5,000-10,000 to produce, it is one of the simplest ideas ever and yet they now have 3 Million YouTube hits.   Mainly because it just makes people smile a little bit.   And it fits perfectly with the Volkswagen brand.

What’s your version of this idea on your brand?

 

Chipotle “Back to the Start”

The Chipotle brand is unique in that many times it runs against convention.   Everything about their “Back to the Start” runs counter to how things are supposed to be done.   First of all, if any agency came into you and said “we want to do an animated spot about a farmer and we’ve decided to use Scientist by Cold Play as the main song….except we want to get Willie Nelson to do it”, I wonder how many Brand Leaders would have said “go on, tell me more”.  Most would throw the Ad Agency out and opt for something more conservative.  The good news for Chipotle is they didn’t have to go through that conversation because Chipotle doesn’t even have an ad agency.   They did all this work themselves.   It took them a year to make it.  Now that’s crazy.   On top of that, the goal of the ad was never to sell more burritos but to let people know of their commitment to sustainable farming.  The barely mention the brand name, never shows one of the products and even sells the Willie Nelson song on iTunes at the end of the ad.  The media plan calls for showing it viral first, then show it in movie theatres and then just show it once on TV, but show it during the Grammy Awards.   Who is still with me?   Would you as a Brand Leader have the guts to do this?   

 

This ad has generated over 10,000,000 hits on YouTube and was the hit of the Grammy Awards, lighting up Twitter that night.   And if you’re totally interested now, then here’s “the making of” that generated another 100,000 hits.

 

McDonald’s “how a Burger is Made for TV”

Now McDonald’s has all the money possible, and is on TV all the time.   Yet this “behind the scenes” look at how they make a Quarter Pounder for their advertising takes on question that many consumers have probably been thinking for decades:  “how come my burger doesn’t look as good as the one on TV?”   McDonald’s answers this with direct honesty, showing why they have to fluff up the pickles or eliminate little blemishes on the bun.  They compare a recently purchased Quarter Pounder to the one that their stylist works on for the ad.  This simple little spot, made up in Canada, has generated almost 8,000,000 hits on-line. 

 

I want these Ideas to Inspire you to do something different! 

 

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 ask Big Questions that get to Big Strategic Answers

Slide1In our marketing careers, we start off in a doing-role and get completely swamped in execution.   We think “if only I had a higher level job, I’d actually have time to think, rather than just do”.   The problem for many of us, is not only do we get good at the doing, we get so good that we can’t get past it and we never end getting to the real strategic thinking.  We just become a do-er at a higher level and drive everyone crazy beneath us.

When I talk to many of the senior Brand Leaders, at the VP and Director level, I hear 3 common things:

  1. “I am too busy and I have no time for strategic thinking”
  2. “My team lacks the experience so I have to jump in resolve issues myself”
  3. “If I didn’t jump in, it just wouldn’t get done right”
Are you really Strategic?

Everyone out there claims to be a strategic thinker, but I would guess that really only half of us really are strategic.

  • 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.   This is PLANNING!
  • 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  then doing nothing.   They opt for action over thinking.    They are impulsive and doers who see tasks.  They are frustrated by strategic thinkers.  This is EXECUTING!

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.

If you speak in a telling voice, you leave your team with one answer:  YES.   If you speak in an asking voice you leave your team with 3 answers:  YES, NO or let me dig in a bit more and find out.  

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.   There’s nothing wrong with stumping the team, because you’re even stumping yourself in the process.

So What are the Tough Questions to Ask?  

As your team might be at the beginning stage of digging in on analysis, here’s are 10 great questions to ask your team:

  1. How do we make money?   This focuses them on figuring out the pathway from the activities on the brand to the results in the market and the profitability on the balance sheets.   The most beloved brands use the consumer connection to create a source of power that they can use on various areas of the market and then use that power to drive the brand’s profitability.   Your team should be able to map this out and use it as a roadmap for the brand’s future.   If you’re not focused on power and profit, then you’re not strategic.  
  2. What is it that makes us different?  USP 2.0The best of brands are either better, different or cheaper.   Or not around for very long.   If you can’t answer this question, then how do you expect your consumer to be able to answer.   You’re likely just a me-too brand and once that’s discovered, you’ll be on a downward spiral.   
  3. Why are we here?  How did we get here?  Where could we be?    It’s great for getting to the vision, without writing the word “vision” up on the board and saying to everyone “ok go”.  That gets you no-where.   Pick a magical date of 5-10 years from now and say “if you got everything you wanted, what would the brand look like in 5 years?”  Push them hard on the where to, because that’s when the brand starts to transform itself.  
  4. What’s holding us back from being where we want to be?   Once you get the team focused on the vision of 5 to 10 years from now.  This allows you to start attacking your brand, to find the inhibitors that you can try to unleash or course correct.  
  5. Which would be easier:   getting our most loyal users to use more, moving up those who have already bought into the brand to start using regularly or getting a new user?    This is pushing them towards a strategic choice, whether to focus on base users or new users–penetration or usage frequency.  It also should start to force you to look at your brand funnel to see where you have strength and where you have gaps.   Every brand should be utilizing a brand funnel.   It’s almost negligent to not use one.   Slide1That’s like working out at the gym and not knowing your blood pressure or cholesterol scores.  When you layer in What would make us more Money, you might start to see the ROI impact of the same decision.  
  6. What would our consumer say about our brand?  This shifts the focus of the discussion from a myopic brand focus into thinking about the consumer first.   Everything you do should be start and end with the consumer in mind.  After all, if you figure out how to win over the consumer, you become more powerfully connected and can drive greater growth and profits through that power   
  7. For Strategy, what choices are on the table that helps you gain a foothold into the market but also helps to drive the long-term win? A test for any great strategy is whether it has all 4 key elements.   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.   Pick a tight target market of those who can love you, and pick a unique position that you can stand behind and win.   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. Find that connection with your consumer—moving them along the love curve.  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.  Your brand finds a way to turn the consumer connectivity into a source of power the brand can leverage.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, where you can translate all the power you’ve earned into profits and brand value.
  8. For any choice related to brand positioning and go-to-market, whether it’s target market, main message, media choices or activities, force their hand by asking a few questions to ask:  1) which one gets us on our way to vision faster?    2) which one helps us grow faster  3) which one makes us more money?   Always push your team to focus by making them use the word “or” instead of “and”. If you think you are a strategic decision maker, then whenever you choose both, you’ve failed.   When you go into a casino, and put one chip on each of the 38 choices on the roulette wheel, it might be fun, but you’ll never win.    By targeting everyone then you’re not making the choice, you’re just depleting your resources.   And you run the risk that no consumer ever says “wow, that brand is really speaking to me.”
  9. When seeing new creative execution of anything, ask “DO YOU LOVE IT?” and then watch their eyes.  Do you think our costumer will love it?  Is this connected to personal pride or are they just passing the buck filling in forms.  not okGetting something to market, big or small takes a herculean effort to overcome obstacles.   I want to know on day 1, will they fight for it?   A great idea that falls on the vine is worth less than an OK idea executed with passion.  If we don’t love the work we do, then how do we expect the consumer to love the brand?    OK is the enemy of greatness.  
  10. Why do you want to spend this money?    If you are about to spend millions of dollars, I want to hear the reason why you think it’s crucial, why it will pay back even greater than the resources we put forward.   Understanding and aligning to one key objective allows everyone to focus on the outcome.   

And finally, the most important question of all:  What do your instincts think we should do?   And then listen.  You might be surprised by the good thinking on your team and you might be surprised that their answer is better than the one that is in your head.  

This might be most obvious of questions, but how many times per week do you ask this?   Imagine the responses you might get from that.  Imagine how motivated your team would be.  As a leader, I want you to start exhibiting more patience.  You have to learn the art of questioning that sets up the listening.  If you learn this skill you’ll start to realize that you can still control the direction of the brand through questions, even more than through direction.  On the plus side, you’ll have a fully engaged, motivated team that’s ready to deliver.

As a Brand Leader at the executive level, you should walk into every meeting telling yourself “I know less about this than anyone in the room” and that puts you in the most powerful position to ask the right strategic questions and listen for the right strategic answers.

The bigger the question, the bigger the answer.

To help improve your strategic thinking, read the following presentation:

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

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

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:

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

10 “Stop It’s” to avoid failing on the Customer Experience

The most Beloved Brands create a brand experience that lives up to even over-delivers against the brand’s promise.  I always like to remind myself that the customer is the most selfish animal on the planet, and deservedly so, because they have given you their hard-earned money.  Brand Leaders are always fixated on driving demand to increase share and sales.  Yet they usually only reach for marketing tactics like advertising, special promotion or new products.  It takes years to get customers to change their behavior and move away from their favorite brand and try yours.  Yet it takes seconds of bad service for you to lose a customer for life.

There are five sources of connection for a brand 1) Brand Promise:  Positioning 2) Strategy:  Plan  3) The Brand Story:  Communication 4) Freshness:  Innovation and finally 5) The Experience:  impacted by the culture and operations. As Brand Leaders, we tend to think someone else is managing the customer experience.  But it’s all part of the brand and you should be constantly managing the customer experience so it over-delivers against the brand promise.  The brand promise is not just for great external communication.  It equally acts as an internal beacon for the company’s culture to look to for how to behave and so the organization is set up to deliver.

Here’s 10 things you can Stop Doing:

Bad Service Rule #1:  Stop It with the attitude of “I’m in shirts not ties”.  It can be extremely frustrating walking up to an employee of a store who has no clue about anything but their own little world.  And even worse when they just point and say “go over there”.  The better service is those who take the extra step by jumping in and helping and those know what’s going on in every part of the brand–not just their own world.   Try asking someone at Whole Foods where something is and they will walk you right over to the product you’re asking about and ask if you need anything else.

Bad Service Rule #2:  Stop It when you make the customer do the work.  The airlines have been shifting all their work over to customers for years–boarding pass, bag tag and now even lifting your suitcase up onto the conveyor belt.  While it might help you control your costs in the short-term, you’ll never be a Beloved Brand and you’ll never be able to charge a premium price for your services.  Instead, in a highly price competitive marketplace, you just end up passing those cost savings onto to the customer in lower prices.  No wonder most airlines are going bankrupt.

Bad Service Rule #3:  Stop It when you feel compelled to bring up the fine print when dealing with a customer problem.  Last week I had a computer problem, but I felt extra confident because I had paid extra money to get the TOTAL service plan.  Yet with my first computer problem I was told the TOTAL service plan did not include hardware,software, water damage or physical damage.  With a computer, what else is there?   As a consumer, I had gone through the brand funnel–from consideration to purchase–and made a choice to buy your brand.  Yet, at the first sign of my frustration with your brand you are deciding to say to me “don’t come back”.  I had a problem with my iPod a few years ago and returned it to the Apple store.  They went into the back room and got a new iPod for me and said “would you like us to transfer all your songs over?”.  I was stunned.  Apple took a problem and turned me into a happy customer who wanted to spend even more money with them.

Bad Service Rule #4:  Stop It when you send a phone call to an answering machine.  We’ve all experienced this and secretly many of us have done this.  Now if you know you’re going to get a machine, it’s OK to say “is it OK if you get their machine”.   But willingly sending a caller into a machine is just plain lazy and it says you just don’t care.  Treat them with the respect that a paying customer has earned with you and make sure there is a human on the other line.

Bad Service Rule #5:  Stop It with processes that make it look like you’ve never been a customer before.  While brand leaders tend to think they own the strategy and advertising, it is equally important that you also own the customer experience.  While the positive view of the purchase process is driven by a brand funnel, you should also use a “Leaky Bucket” analysis to understand where and why you are losing customers.   It is hard work to get a customer into your brand funnel, it is great discipline to move them through that brand funnel by ensuring that every stage is set up to make it easy for the customer to keep giving you money.  Step into the shoes of your customers and experience the brand through their eyes on a regular basis so you can effectively manage the experience.  When you find leaks to the brand funnel, find ways to close them so you can hang on to the customers you’ve worked so hard to get into the doors.

Bad Service Rule #6:  Stop It with the trying to win every customer interaction.  Last year after Christmas I was lucky enough to be 34th in the return line.  For some reason they put the most angry person they could find to manage the returns line.  With every customer, this guy was hell-bent on trying to break the customer’s spirit so they’d avoid returning the product.   As I watched, I felt like I was headed into a police interrogation.  On the other hand, if you want to see a comfortable returns policy, try returning something at Costco.  They take the stance that they are on the side of their “members” and help you go up against the big bad manufacturers.  If you don’t have your receipt, they’ll print it out for you.  At Costco, the returns process is where they earn that $50-100 membership price.  Just maybe you should start treating your customers like members and see if it forces you to see things differently.

Bad Service Rule #7:  Stop It when you are explaining your problems instead of listening to the customer’s problems.  When a place is completely messed up, some people feel compelled to tell you how stupid they think this is. Unfortunately, this constantly complaining ‘why me’ attitude can quickly become systemic and contagious within the culture.  It takes an effort to turn the culture around–laying in service values, driving process that helps reward good service, and driving personal accountability within everyone.

Bad Service Rule #8:  Stop It with the hollow apologies that seems like you are reading from a manual.  No one wants to deal with people who just feel like they are going through the motions.  It’s crucial that you set up a culture that is filled with authentic people who have a true passion for customers.  TD Bank retail staff does an exceptional job in being real with customers.  When you consider that they hire from the same pool of talent as all the other banks, it’s obviously the culture of caring about their customers that really makes the difference in separating their customer experience from others.

Bad Service Rule #9:  Stop It when you try using my complaint call as a chance to up-sell me  The only up-sell is to get me to come back again.   Last month, I had an issue with my internet being way too slow.  When I called my local service provider, instead of addressing how bad their current service was, the first response was to try selling me a better service plan that with a higher monthly fee and a higher priced modem.  And then all of a sudden, they tried to sell me a home security system.   If a customer is a point of frustration, why would they want to pay you even more money for a bad service.  You haven’t earned my business.  The best in class service is the Ritz Carlton who proactively look to turn customer problems into a chance to WOW the customer.  It’s built right into the culture as employees are encouraged to brainstorm solutions and empowered with up to $2,000.  Instead of up-selling, the Ritz spends the extra effort to ensure you’re satisfied with the service you’ve already paid for.

Bad Service Rule #10:  Stop It when it just becomes a job for you and you forget the passion you have for the business.  When your team starts to feel like they have no power, they just start to show up as pencil-pushing bureaucrats.  There’s no passion left–as it’s been sucked out by a culture with a complacent attitude and a bunch of check in-check out types who follow the job description and never do anything beyond it.  Ask yourself “why do you come to work” and if the answer doesn’t show up in your work, then you know that the culture needs a complete overhaul.  If you don’t love the work, then how do you expect your customer to love the brand?  

Brand = Culture

Beloved Brands create an exceptional customer experience.  They know it’s not just about advertising and innovation.  As a consumer, I’ve become spoiled by the best of the brands who raise the bar and continue to surprise and delight me.  Think of how special you feel when you are dealing with Disney, Starbucks and Apple.  And compare that to how demoralized you feel when dealing with the airlines, utilities and electronics shops.  For the Beloved Brands, they understand that Culture and Brand are One.  The Brand becomes an internal beacon for the culture—and the brand’s people have to genuinely be the strongest most outspoken fans who spread the brand’s virtues.

As you look at your own customer experience, take a walk in your customers shoes and see where your customer would rate you.   Are they with you because they love you and want to be with you or because they have to be with you?  Even though they like the product, they may be indifferent to your brand.  And they’ll be gone at the first chance at an alternative.  And as a brand leader, your brand is likely stuck on a rational promise, unable to separate yourself from competitors and instead you are left competing on price and promotion.

  • Begin by holding the culture up the lens of the brand DNA and ensure the right team in place to deliver against the needs of the brand.
  • Start finding ways to create a culture that is more consumer centric (customer first)
  • Begin to push the culture to create a unique delivery of the product experience.  Use Leaky Bucket analysis to take a walk in yoru customers shoes and to address weaknesses.
  • Set up forums for innovation—that create an energy through the culture and one that starts to take risks on the best ideas.
  • Use a purpose driven vision, with a set of beliefs and values to challenge the team to create and deliver that experience.
  • Begin using power of a loved brand to attract and retain the best.  Find fans of the brand who will become your front line spokespeople.  They bring that passion for the brand.  Just ask the guys in the blue shirts at the Apple stores.

Here’s a presentation on what makes a Beloved Brand:

 

To read How Beloved Brands fall from grace, follow this link:  how-beloved-brands-fall-from-grace

 

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:

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

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

 

Does a Brand Vision Statement Matter?

The Vision for the Toronto Maple Leafs

I love asking people “Do you think the Toronto Maple Leafs had a good year last year?”.  For non-hockey fans, the Leafs would be like the Chicago Cubs in baseball or  Aston Villa in the English Premier League.  My beloved Leafs are the only NHL team who has not made the playoffs since 2004, and they have not won a championship since 1967.  The last two seasons they finished 29th and 25th out of 30 teams.  That’s really pathetic.

So did the Leafs have a good year?   It depends on what you think the brand vision is?    If you think the Leafs Vision is to Win the Stanley Cup, then it’s been an obvious disaster.   But if you think the Leafs Vision is to be the Most Valued Sports Franchise, then it’s been an amazing year, just like the past 8 years.   In those eight years of hockey despair, overall revenue has gone up from $117 million to $190 million while costs have gone down from $69 million to $57 million.   That’s a P&L the people of Price Waterhouse dream about.  The resulting brand value has seen the Leafs go from $263 million in 2003 up to $521 million–making it the #1 value valued team in hockey.   Eight years of missing the playoffs and the value of the team has nearly doubled.  Instead of firing everyone, they should be handing out the bonus cheques.  They still have a long way to reach the NY Yankees Value of $2.2 Billion.  

Does a Vision Statement Pay Out?

Companies that have Vision Statements have a better sense of where they are going.  And the proof is there that it pays off for companies with a Vision.

  • Harvard Study across 20 industries looking at businesses showed that companies with Vision Statements saw their revenue grew more than four times faster; job creation was seven times higher; their stock price grew 12 times faster; and profit performance was 750% higher.
  • Newsweek looked at 1000 companies with Vision Statements had an average return on stockholder equity of 16.1%, while firms without them had only a 7.9% average return.
  • “Built to Last” showed that for companies with Vision Statements, that a $1 investment in 1926 would have returned $6,350 compared to only a return of $950 for comparable companies without a Vision.
The Vision and Mission help to Frame the Overall Brand Plan

Think of the Vision as the End in Mind Achievement towards your purpose.  What do you want the brand to become?  Think 10 years out: if you became this one thing, you would know that you are successful.  Ideally it is Qualitative (yet grounded in something) and quantitative (measurable)  It should be motivating and enticing to get people focused.   It should be personal and speak to why you get up in the morning—why you got into this business.

The Mission is the Special Assignment.  It should be tightly connected to the vision, but is more likely a 1-3 year direction—if a vision is a destination, then a mission is the how or the major milestone on the path towards that vision. A mission statement focuses on a company’s present state while a vision statement focuses on a company’s future.

Things that Make a Good vision: 

  1. Easy for employees and partners to understand and rally around
  2. Think about something that can last 5-10 years or more
  3. Balance between aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement)
  4. It’s ok to embed a financial ($x) or share position (#1) element into it as long as it’s important for framing the vision.

The watch outs for vision statements:

  1. It’s not a positioning statement.  Almost positioning neutral  Let the positioning come out in the strategy.
  2. Make sure we haven’t achieved it already.  If you are #1, then don’t put “be #1”.
  3. Don’t put strategic statements.  Vision answers “where could we be” rather than “how can we get there”
  4. Try to be single-minded:  Tighten it up and don’t include everything!!   Can you say it in an elevator.  Can you actually remember it?  Can you yell it at a Sales meeting?
Purpose Driven Visions:  The Power of Why

More companies are reaching for their purpose answering the simple question:  “why do we do what we do”.  Why do you exist?  What’s your Purpose or Cause?  Start with what’s in you.  Why do you wake up in the morning or why did you start this company long ago?     Simon Sinek, the Author “The Power of Why” says the most successful brands start with a purpose driven vision (why) and match the strategies (how) and the execution (what) to the vision.

Using the Apple brand as an example, Sinek talks about the “Why” for Apple as challenging the status quo, and thinking differently.  People at Apple want to make a dent in the universe.  The “How” is making sure our products are all beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.  Since people buy into the why and the how of Apple and want to be a part of it, it matters less “What” they do and they’ll follow them as they move to new categories.  As Sinek says “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.

Vision and Employees

A well-articulated vision can really make a difference for employees, giving them both a challenge and focus to what they do each day.  For service driven companies, where people are the brand it becomes essential.  Adding in brand values and even service values can assist people in knowing what they should be doing each day and how they should be doing it.  For a product driven brand, it can help all drive focus for all those working around the brand whether that’s ad agencies, R&D, sales or operations.

To see how a Brand Vision helps to frame the brand plan, 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

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 Be a Successful VP of Marketing

Quintessentially, rule #1 is you have to Make the Numbers. 

As the VP, your main role is to create demand for your brands.  What’s expected of you is to gain share and drive sales growth to help drive profit for the company.   The results come from making the right strategic choices, executing at a level beyond the competitors and motivating your team to do great work.  But how you do it, and the balances you place in key areas are choices you need to make.  Making the numbers gives you more freedom on how you wish to run things.  Without the numbers, the rest might not matter.

Here’s my Six points of advice on How to be Successful VP of Marketing. 

  1. While your people run the brands and the execution, you should run the P&L and essentially run all the marketing processes.  You have to run the P&L and make investment choices.  Bring an ROI and ROE (Return on Investment and Effort) mind set to those decisions.   These choices will be one of the essentials to making the numbers and gaining more freedom in how you do the job.  In terms of process, it’s always been my belief that great processes in place—brand planning, advertising, creative briefs—is not restrictive but rather provides the right freedom to your people.  I’d rather my people drive all their creative energy into great work that gets in the marketplace, not trying to figure out what slide looks really cool in the brand plan presentation.  I’ve worked as a Brand Manager in a marketing team without process and it was total chaos, not fun at all.

    Click on the plan above for How to Write a Brand Plan

  2. Focus on the People and the Results will come:  The formula is simple:  the better the people, the better the work and in turn the better the results.  You should have a regular review of the talent with your directors.  I’d encourage you to ensure there’s a systemic way to get feedback to everyone on the team, preferably on a quarterly basis.  Waiting for the annual review is way too late and almost negligent as a leader.  Your people have the potential to grow with feedback.   But without feedback, they’ll be confused and even frustrated.  You should invest in training and development.  Marketing Training is not just on the job, but also in the classroom to challenge their thinking and give them added skills to be better in their jobs.  Marketing fundamentals matter.  And the classic fundamentals are falling, whether it is strategic thinking, writing a brand plan, writing a creative brief or judging great advertising.  People are NOT getting the same development they did in prior generations.  Investing in training, not only makes them better, but it is also motivating for them to know that you are investing in them.  And that helps drive retention and commitment into producing great work and driving results.  To view examples of best in class Marketing training:  Beloved Brands Learning Sessions
  3. Be consistent:   People have to know how to act around you.  You have to set up an avenue where they are comfortable enough to approach you, and be able to communicate the good and bad.  A scary leader discourages people from sharing the bad results, leaving you in the dark.  On the other hand, open dialogue helps you be more knowledgeable of what’s really going on, so you can run the business.  Also, they have to be able to challenge you and push forward new thinking into the system.   This helps your brands to stay modern, push new ideas and connect with consumers.  If you push your ideas too far, you could be pushing ideas from a generation too late.  Be consistent in how you think, how you act in meetings and how you approve.  Inconsistent behaviour by a leader does not “keep them on their toes” and create an atmosphere of “creativity”.   It inhibits creativity, and creates tension that adds no value to the brands.  People forget that leadership assumes “followership” from your team.  Creating a good atmosphere on the team will make people want to go the extra mile for you.  Be a good listener and you’ll be surprised on what people tell you—how honest they’ll be, how much they’ll tell you.  Knowledge makes you a great leader, and it starts with listening.
  4. Let them own it and let them Shine:  Remember when you were a Brand Manager and the passion you put into that job—the greatness you sought–drove you even harder.  Now it’s time, for you to step back and let them have that same passion to do amazing work and drive the results.  It has to be about them, not you.  At the VP level, I used to walk into every meeting knowing that “I knew less about the issue on the table, than anyone in the room”.   I looked for ways to support and encourage great thinking, while challenging them to reach for even better.  It’s not easy to balance giving them to freedom and yet knowing when to step in and make a decision.  When I was a Brand Manager, my VP once said to me “every time I make a decision, I weaken myself”.  Honestly, I thought he was certifiably crazy, until I was in the VP role.  And then it made sense.  By making all the decisions, you bring yourself down a level or two and you take over their job.  They’ll start to look to you to make EVERY decision and that just makes you the “Super-Duper Brand Manager”.    Instead, knowing how to ask good questions of your team to challenge or push them into a certain direction without them knowing you’re pushing them is more enlightening than coming up with statements of direction.  But on the other hand, when they put their great work up for approval, and it’s fundamentally sound, approve it.  Don’t do the constant spin of pushing for better, because then you look indecisive.  For how those on your team can be better, view: How to be a Successful Marketing Director or How to be a Successful Brand Manager or How to be a Successful Assistant Brand Manager
  5. You are the Mayor of Marketing:  Bring a vision to the role.  I tried to use vision statements to rally the team, almost like campaign statements.  I used  “Everything starts and ends with the Consumer in Mind” to push my team to be more consumer focused.   And I used  “If we each get better, we all get better” to bring a re-commitment to training and development. Look at what needs fixing on your team, and create your own vision statements that relevant to your situation.  Bring a human side to the role.  Get up, walk around and engage with everyone on your team.  It will make someone’s day.  Your role is to motivate and encourage them to do great work.  Challenge them and recognize the great work.  It might be my own thing, but I never said “thank you” because I never thought they were doing it for me.  Instead I said “you should be proud” because I knew they were doing it for themselves.  Influence behind the scenes to help clear some of the roadblocks in the way of their success.  Know when you need to back them up, whether it’s an internal struggle they are having, selling the work into your boss or with a conflict with an agency they are struggling with.  
  6. It’s a rather lonely job:  I remember when I first took the job as VP, I found it surprisingly a bit lonely.  Everyone in marketing tries to be “on” whenever you are around.  And you don’t always experience the “real” side of the people on your team.  That’s ok.  Just be ready for it.  Also, the distance from your new peers (the head of sales, HR, operations or finance) is far greater than you’re used to.  And it might feel daunting at first.  Your peers expect you to run marketing and let them run their own functional area.  And the specific problems you face, they might not appreciate or even understand the subtleties of the role.   Your boss also gives you a lot of rope (good and bad) and there’s usually less coaching than you might be used to.  It’s important for you to have a good mentor or even an executive coach to give you someone to talk with that understands what you’re going through.

As you are coming up through the marketing roles, observe great leaders equally watch bad leaders.  I learned equally from watching both.  It will help frame how you will do the job.  Keep a checklist of “when I’m in the VP role”.   Bring those into the role, and look to improve upon what your predecessor left for you.  I was lucky in that my predecessor did a great job in turning around the business, giving me freedom to bring energy and passion into the role.

My last piece of advice for you is, Enjoy it.  Yes, it’s stressful.  You worked hard to get here.   Bring that enjoyment into the role.  If you love the work, it will be contagious and your people will feed off that passion and energy. They will be better for it.

After all, the better the people, the better the work, and  in turn the better the results.

To read how to run your career as well as those on your team read the following document.  Feel free to download and share with your team.

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
  • 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
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

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

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