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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How to Manage your Marketing Career from ABM to CMO

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

Marketing Roles by Level

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

  • Assistant Brand Manager:  It’s about doing; analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.  It’s not an easy job and only 50% get promoted to Brand Manager.  To read a story on how to be successful as an ABM, click on the following hyper link:  How to be a Successful ABM and get Promoted
  • Brand Manager:  It becomes about ownership and strategic thinking within your brand plan.  Most Brand Managers are honestly a disaster with their first direct report, and get better around the fifth report.  The good ones let the ABM do their job; the bad ones jump in too much, frustrated and impatient rather than acting as a teacher.  To read about being a successful Brand Manager, read:  How to be a Successful Brand Manager
  • Marketing Director:  It’s more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing.  Your role is to set the standard and then hold everyone to that standard.  To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best.  Let your best people shine, grow and push you.  Follow this hyper link to read more:   How to be a Successful Marketing Director
  • VP Marketing or CMO:  It’s about leadership, vision and getting the most from people.  If you are good at it, you won’t need to do any marketing, other than challenging and guiding your people to do their best work. You have to deliver the results, and very few figure out the equation that the better the people means the better the work and in the end the better the results. Invest in training as a way to motivate your team and keep them engaged.  Use teaching moments to share your wisdom. Read the following article for how to be a success:  How to be a Successful VP of Marketing

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

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

Marketing Values for All Levels

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

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

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

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

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

How to Lead a Performance Review for Brand Leaders

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

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

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

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

Skills, Behaviours and Experiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth.  To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

How to Get 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:

8 Leadership Behaviors You Need to Nail to Be a Great Brand Leader

Brand LeadershipNo matter what stage you are in your marketing career, here are eight behaviours that may challenge you to be a great marketer.  Whether you’re in a junior or senior role, my challenge for you is to find more balances within your leadership style.  Avoid getting stuck into a rut by saying “this is how I do it, like me or hate me, but I can’t really change who I am”.   You have to be constantly changing and evolving.   Find your balance of strategy and execution, being analytical versus being creative.  Try to be both.  Bring in your instincts to your well thought plans and don’t always opt for the usual answers but sometimes choose the path that may feel a bit of riskier move.  Revel in ambiguity for a bit longer and see the answer comes to you.  Putting the consumer first allows you to meet their needs and find ways to create a tighter bond with them which will set you up to win in the market.  Listen first, talk second.  Leadership implies follower-ship and if you’re always talking first, I’d challenge you to look behind and see if anyone is following you.

The 8 Behaviors of a Great Brand Leader
  1. Be Consumer Focused:  Everything Starts and Ends With the Consumer in Mind.  Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and think like them.  Steve Jobs said he never needed research, but he must have been amazing at listening, observing and anticipating how the consumer would react.  I’d still recommend you do research, but go beyond the statistics of the research and learn how your consumer thinks.  Whenever I go to focus groups, I watch their faces.  And when the research results come back you always have to ask “so now what do we do”.  The research helps you, but never gives you the exact answer.  Match up the needs of the consumer to your brand assets to figure out your ideal brand positioning.  The best marketers represent the consumer to the brand, NOT the brand to the consumer.  I always believe that consumers are selfish and deservedly so because they have money to spend.  As a consumer, I don’t care what you do until you care about what I need.  Focus on them, not on you.
  2. Follow Your Instincts:  Gut Feel of Marketing:  Listen to your inner thoughts, they are in there.   Too many times people fail because “they went along with it even though they didn’t like it”.  The problem is that sometimes your instincts are hidden away.  You get confused, you feel the pressure to get things done and you’ve got everyone telling you to go for it.  You get scared because you’re worried about getting promoted and want to do the ‘right thing’.  But your gut is telling you it’s just not right.  My rule is simple:  if you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand.  The worst type of marketer is someone who says “I never liked the brief” or “I never liked the ad”.  If you blame your agency or team after the fact, I have a word for people like you:  “useless”.
  3. Revel in Ambiguity:  Be Patient with Ideas.  Never be afraid of an idea and never kill it quickly.  Watch the signals you send that may suck the creativity out of your team.   If you become too predictable to your team, then your work in the market will also become predictable.  Ambiguity and time pressure usually work against each other.  Don’t ever settle for “ok” just because of a deadline.  Always push for great.  What I have found is the longer I can stay comfortable in the “ambiguity zone” the better the ideas get whether it’s the time pressure that forces our thinking to be simpler or whether it’s the performance pressure forces us to push for our best idea, I always say, the longer I can hold my breath, the better the work gets.
  4. Be Organized:  You Run the Brand, Don’t Let the Brand Run You: Be thoroughly organized, well planned and know the pulse of your business.  Every six months, I would find a quiet time to answer five key questions that would help me stay aware: 1) Where are we? 2) Why are we here? 3) Where could we be?  4) How can we get there? and 5) What do we have to do to get started?   In an odd way, the more planning you do, the more agile you’ll be, because you’ll know when it’s ok to “go off plan”  Stay in Control:  Hit the Deadlines, don’t give the appearance that you’re not in control. We have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other.  Know Your Business and don’t get caught off-guard.  Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.  Enjoy doing the monthly report because it makes you the most knowledgeable about the brand.   Stay conceptual; avoid getting stuck in the pennies or decimals.Process should enable us, not hinder us:  A good process can force your thinking towards a solution.  If it restricts your thinking, it’s not a good process.  But if it means, you free up your time for strategic thinking, instead of format thinking, we’ll move much faster.
  5. Manage your Boss:  Be the Brand Leader not the Follower The more you keep your boss informed the more rope they may give you.   If they don’t know what you’re doing, they may clamp down and micro-manage you. . Ensure a policy of open communication with no surprises:  Make sure you keep your team informed and involved.  Keep senior management informed.  You must be the champion of the brand.  The best ideas are those that erupt out from the brand team–not from a top down perspective.  You have to be a self-starter that pushes your idea through the system, in the face of resistance or doubt.  And you will meet resistance from so many people in the system.  All the best work I ever did met a large degree of resistance.  You have to anticipate this and work through it.  One subtlety to ownership is your tone. When you don’t know something, speak in an “asking way” and openly seek out the wisdom and advice of your agency, your manager or your peers.  Put your ego aside and listen.  But equally, when you do know the answer, speak in a “telling way” that gets others to follow you, including senior management.
  6. Speed, Simplicity and Self Confidence:  a) Speed:  We don’t do things fast for the sake of it; we do things fast so we can take advantage of opportunities that have a window.  If you recognize an opportunity, realize that others are also recognizing the same opportunity.  So speed to market can enable you to win before they get there.  Also, doing things fast does not mean sloppy.  b) Simplicity: I’ve always said, “If you have a complex answer to something, odds are you are wrong”.  Keep it simple enough to explain, and so that the people who need to execute our ideas can really execute them.  c) Self Confidence:  As the brand leader, speak your mind.  After all, we are all just walking opinions.  Find a way within your leadership style to engage your team, agency or your boss in a debate to get to better answers.
  7. Actively Listen: As a brand leader, you should be constantly listening, not trying to be the smartest person in the room.  When you tell an agency or employee what to do, there is only one answer you’ll hear:  YES and the conversation is over.  But when you ask an agency or employee, you might hear YES, NO or MAYBE and the conversation is just beginning.   You’ll also find that by listening, you can learn from all the other disciplines–finance, sales, production, R&D and HR.
  8. 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.  Use every moment as a potential teaching moment for helping your team get better.

Everyone has a gap against one or more of these leadership areas.  No one is perfect.  The real question is what are you willing to do to counter that gap.  

To read more about how you can manage your career, follow the story below (which can be downloaded and printed)

 

Other Roles You May Be Interested In
  • Assistant Brand Manager:  It’s about doing; analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.  It’s not an easy job and only 50% get promoted to Brand Manager.  To read a story on how to be successful as an ABM, click on the following hyper link:  How to be a Successful ABM and get Promoted
  • Marketing Director:  It’s more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing.  Your role is to set the standard and then hold everyone to that standard.  To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best.  Let your best people shine, grow and push you.  Follow this hyper link to read more:   How to be a Successful Marketing Director
  • VP Marketing or CMO:  It’s about leadership, vision and getting the most from people.  If you are good at it, you won’t need to do any marketing, other than challenging and guiding your people to do their best work. You have to deliver the results, and very few figure out the equation that the better the people means the better the work and in the end the better the results. Invest in training as a way to motivate your team and keep them engaged.  Use teaching moments to share your wisdom. Read the following article for how to be a success:  How to be a Successful VP of Marketing
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. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  4. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits 

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

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

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

 

How to Fail as an Assistant Brand Manager

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

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

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

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

Here’s a presentation on Successful Marketing Careers:  

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

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

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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.

 

Keys to Being a Successful Marketing Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read a presentation on careers:

Other Roles You May Be Interested In
  • Assistant Brand Manager:  It’s about doing; analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.  It’s not an easy job and only 50% get promoted to Brand Manager.  To read a story on how to be successful as an ABM, click on the following hyper link:  How to be a Successful ABM and get Promoted
  • Brand Manager:  It becomes about ownership and strategic thinking within your brand plan.  Most Brand Managers are honestly a disaster with their first direct report, and get better around the fifth report.  The good ones let the ABM do their job; the bad ones jump in too much, frustrated and impatient rather than acting as a teacher.  To read about being a successful Brand Manager, read:  How to be a Successful Brand Manager
  • VP Marketing or CMO:  It’s about leadership, vision and getting the most from people.  If you are good at it, you won’t need to do any marketing, other than challenging and guiding your people to do their best work. You have to deliver the results, and very few figure out the equation that the better the people means the better the work and in the end the better the results. Invest in training as a way to motivate your team and keep them engaged.  Use teaching moments to share your wisdom. Read the following article for how to be a success:  How to be a Successful VP of Marketing
Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Positioning Statement.  Before you even get into the creative brief, you should be looking at target, benefits and reason to believe.   To read how to write a Brand Positioning Statement, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write an Effective Brand Positioning Statement
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits 

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

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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.