Is your Brand Team good enough to achieve your 2014 goals?

2014As you move up, you start to realize that you can’t do everything, and you’re really only as good as your team.  The thing I’ve always said is that better people create better work and that means better results.  The question you should be asking is are they good enough?  Maybe it’s time to invest in making your people better, so that you can be freed up for more leadership, higher level strategic thinking and focusing on driving the vision of the team, rather than caught in the weeds of re-writing copy on a coupon.  

Here are 5 key questions to be asking:  
  1. Do your Brand Leaders think strategically?  
  2. Are your Brand Leaders going deep enough on their analysis?  
  3. Can your Brand Leaders write a plan and communicate it throughout the company?  
  4. Are your Brand Leaders a good judge advertising and communication?
  5. Are your Brand Leaders good at staying focused?

Are they disciplined and fundamentally sound?   Can everyone on your team effectively write a brand plan, positioning concepts, a creative brief, make marketing investment decisions and judge creative work to ensure it delivers the strategy?  The great myth of marketing is that it is 100% learned on the job.  It should be a balance of coaching from a well-trained leader, teaching in a class room setting and learning on the job.  More and more, we are seeing marketing teams thrust new marketers into their roles without any training.  In fact, their bosses and even their bosses haven’t really received any training. So who is really teaching you, on the job, if the person with you isn’t well-trained?   

Q1:  Do your Brand Leaders think strategically?   

Strategic thinking is not just whether you are smart or not.  You can be brilliant and not strategic at all.  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 planners who can see connections.  bbi trainingOn the other hand, Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions.  They opt for action over thinking, believing that doing something is better than doing nothing. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. With the explosion of marketing media, we are seeing too many of the new Brand Leaders becoming action-oriented do-ers and not strategic thinkers.  They don’t connect their actions to maximizing the results on the brand.  They do cool stuff they like not strategic things that help grow the business and add profit to the Brand.  I see too many of today’s Brand Leaders focused on activity, rather than strategy.

When you are strategic , you will focus all of your resources and energy against the pressure points that drive the greatest return on investment and effort.  There are Four Principles of Good Strategy: 1) Focus 2) Early Win 3) Leverage point and 4) Gateway to something bigger.

  1. FOCUS:  all your energy to a particular strategic point or purpose.  Match up your brand assets to pressure points you can break through, maximizing your limited resources—either financial resources or effort.  Focus on one target.   Focus on one message.  And focus on very few strategies and tactics.  Less is more. 
  2. You want that EARLY WIN, to kick-start of some momentum. Early Wins are about slicing off parts of the business or population where you can build further.  This proves to everyone the brand can win—momentum, energy, following.  
  3. LEVERAGE everything to gain positional advantage or power that helps exert even greater pressure and gains the tipping point of the business that helps lead to something bigger.  Crowds follow crowds. 
  4. See beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, 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.

To me, with the modern-day Brand Leader, the area where they struggle the is the “FOCUS” part.  Every brand is constrained by resources—dollars, people and time.  Focus makes you matter most to those who care.   Focusing your limited resources on those consumers with the highest propensity to buy what you are selling will deliver the greatest movement towards sales and the highest return on investment for those resources.  In a competitive category, no one brand can do it all.  Focus makes you decide whether to be better, different or cheaper.  Giving the consumer too many messages about your brand will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique.  Trying to be everything is the recipe for being nothing.  Trying to do everything spreads your resources and your message  so that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”.   With a long to-do list, you’ll never do a great job at anything.   And in a crowded and fast economy, “ok” never breaks through so you’ll never get the early win to gain that tipping point that opens up the gateway to even bigger success. 

Have your Brand Leaders been taught how to think strategically?  I actually don’t know many Brand Leaders that really have been taught.  Yet, we tell Senior Brand Managers, you’re not getting promoted because you’re not strategic enough.  If we taught them how to be strategic, we might find a better pool of talent within your team.  The following training module shows Brand Leaders how to think strategically, and how to think in terms of consumer strategy, competitive strategy or visionary strategy.   Consumer Focused Strategic Thinking starts with the consumer, maps out the need states and best matches your brand to delivering a unique selling proposition that helps connect with consumers, drives added power for the brand which can translate into growth and profitability.  Competitive Focused Strategies have 4 types of  Marketing Warfare Strategies 1) Offensive 2) Defensive 3) Flanking and 4) Guerilla.  Focus and speed are crucial to any warfare.  Being organized and aligned internally is crucial to winning.  Visionary Strategy starts with the purpose driven vision (the Why) and layers in the strategy (the how) and execution (the what) deliver that vision. 

Q2.  Are your Brand Leaders going Deep Enough on Analysis?

I hate when brand leaders do that “surface cleaning” type analysis.  I call it surface cleaning when you find out that someone is coming to your house in 5 minutes so you just take everything that’s on a counter and put it in a drawer really quickly.  I can tell very quickly when someone doesn’t dig deep on analysis.  

The best way go deep on your analysis, ask “so what does that mean” at least five times and watch the information gets richer and deeper. 

Slide1

Looking at the Gray’s Cookie example above, intuitively, it makes sense that going after Health Food Stores could be one option put on the table.  But to say you need to be better, without digging in remains an unsubstantiated opinion.   As you dig deeper, you see that going after Health Food stores, who are highly independent is labor intensive and the payback is just not there.  Yes, you’re way under-developed.  But it’s more expensive than other options.  When you bring the option of going after mass into the mix, which is head office driven, you start to see a higher return on the investment.  This is just a fictional example, but look how the thinking gets richer at each stage.  Force yourself to keep asking “so what does this mean” or “why” pushing the analysis harder and harder. 

Thinking Time Questions that will Help you Go Deeper.  The first analysis is “What do we know?” with 5 key questions to help you sort through your analysis:

  1. What do we know?  This should be fact based and you know it for sure.
  2. What do we assume?  Your educated/knowledge based conclusion that helps us bridge between fact, and speculation.
  3. What we think?  Based on facts, and assumptions, you should be able to say what we think will happen.
  4. What do we need to find out?  There may be unknowns still.
  5. What are we going to do?  It’s the action that comes out of this thinking.

It forces you to start grouping your learning, forces you to start drawing conclusions and it enables your reader to separate fact (the back ground information) from opinion (where you are trying to take them)

The second type of analysis is “Where are we?” with 5 key questions to help you sort through your analysis:

  1. Where are we?
  2. Why are we  here? 
  3. Where could we be?
  4. How can we get there?
  5. What do we need to do to get there?

These questions help frame your thinking as you go into a Brand Plan.  The first question helps the analysis, the second with the key issues, the third frames the vision and objectives, the fourth gets into strategy and tactics and the fifth gets into the execution.  My challenge to you:  update it every 3-6 months, or every time you do something major.  You’ll be surprised that doing something can actually impact “where are we?” on the analysis.  

Q3.  Can your Brand Leaders write an effective Brand Plan?

A well-written Brand Plan helps to align an organization around the direction, the choices and the tactics that need implementing for a brand to achieve their goals. The Brand Plan unites functions such as marketing, sales, product development outlining what each group needs to do for the brand to be successful, while setting goals that operations and finance need to support. The Brand Plan gains approval from senior management around spending options, strategic choices and sets forth the tactics that will be implemented. It holds senior management accountable to the plan. The Brand Plan helps frame the execution for internal stakeholders and for the various agencies who will implement programs within the plan. Execution is an expression of the strategy, and the plan must hold agencies accountable to delivering work that is on strategy. And lastly, the Brand Plan helps the Brand Manager who wrote it, stay focused to deliver what they said they would. It helps them to refer back to the strategy and the intention to ensure the Brand Manager “stays on strategy” the entire year.  For more on how to write a plan, follow this link:  How to Write a Brand Plan

Can your Brand Leaders write a winning Brand Positioning Statement?  Brand Positioning Statements provide the most useful function of taking everything you know about your brand, everything that could be said about the consumer and making choices to pick one target that you’ll serve and one brand promise you will stand behind.  While we think this brand positioning statement sets up the creative brief, it should really set up everything the brand does–equally important for internal as everyone should follow to what the positioning statement says. A best in class positioning statement has four key elements: 

      • Target Market (a)
      • Definition of the market you play in (b)
      • Brand Promise (emotional or rational benefit) (c)
      • The Reason to Believe (RTB) the brand promise (d)

The more focused your decisions, the more successful you will be: decide on one target, one promise and maybe  one or two reasons to believe that help to directly back up your promise.  But the target shouldn’t be everyone 18-65, and don’t throw your eight best features at the wall and hopefully something sticks.  And the reason to believe has to back up your promise, not be a whole new promise.  To see more on how to write an effective Brand Positioning Statement, follow this link:  How to Write a Positioning Statement

Slide1Can your Brand Leaders write a Creative Brief?  The best Advertising is well planned, not some random creative thing that happens.  The value of a creative brief is focus!  Like a good positioning statement, you’re taking everything you know and everything you could possibly say, and starting to make choices on what will give you the greatest return on your media dollars. If you’re not making choices then you’re not making decisions.  Unlike other creativity, advertising is “In the Box” creativity.  The best advertising creative people  are problem solvers, not blue sky thinkers.  Therefore, the role of the creative brief is to create the right box, enough room to move, but enough direction that defines the problem.  The smaller the brief, the bigger the idea.  A good brief should be brief.  One page maximum.  I’m still in shock when I see briefs reaching 5 or 6 pages.  That’s not a brief, that’s a long!  Take the pen and start stroking out words, forcing yourself to start making decisions.  Avoid the “just in case” type of thinking.  For more on How to Write a Brief, follow this link:  How to Write a Brief

Q4.  Can your Brand Leaders judge communications?

Making great advertising is very hard.  Good marketers make it look simple, but they have good solid training and likely some good solid experience.  As Brand Leaders sit in the room, looking at new advertising ideas, most are ill-prepared as to how to judge what makes good advertising and what makes bad.  It’s a myth that great marketing is learned strictly “on the job”.  I also say “you are likely to screw up your first five ads”.  slide15And if you do one a year, that’s 5 years of advertising.  So, how well prepared are you?  An ill prepared Brand Leader will more than likely deliver a poor ad.  There are fundamentals to help ensure that your instincts are the right instincts.  How many hours of training have you had on giving direction to a creative team?   How many times did you role-play giving feedback to the agency?  How good was the coaching you received on your feedback?  Not only do you need the fundamentals through solid training, but you likely need someone coaching you through a role-playing exercise.  Too many Brand Leaders sit there confused, brief in hand, but not sure whether they like it or not sure whether any of the scripts will do much for them.  The four questions you should be asking:

    • Will this ad attract Attention? (A)
    • Does this ad showcase the Brand? (B)
    • Are we Communicating our main benefit?  (C)
    • Will this ad stick in the minds of consumers? (S)

Using something like the ABC’s makes it easy for Brand Leaders to stay strategic and be able to judge the work effectively.  Here’s a write-up on How to help Brand Leaders judge communications Effectively:  The ABC’s of Effective Communication

Q5.  Are your Brand Leaders good at staying focused?

So many Brand Leaders try to do too much.  When you do too much, you just spread your resources thin across too many activities.   You end up never being able to execute anything to the high quality, you never find out if the program could really achieve what you want to achieve.  I use a very simple grid to focus all the activities.  Get everyone to brainstorm all the ideas on post it notes.  Then using the grid below, get them to sort the ideas based on how big the idea is, and how easy it is to execute.  I push for the top 5 ideas that are in the BIG/EASY zone.  

  • If there’s a big idea that’s difficult, then spend the time brainstorming how to make it easier.  
  • If there are small ideas that are easy, then brainstorm how to make the idea even bigger.  

Slide1

There are four areas you need to focus:

  • Pick a focused Target Market:  While it’s tempting to sell to everyone.  Focus your resources on those most likely to buy. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focus on those that can love you.
  • Pick a focused Brand Positioning:  Start with the target market you just picked, and assess their need states to see where you can best match up. Beloved Brands are either better, different or cheaper. Or they are not around for much longer.Slide1
  • Pick a Focused Strategy:  Brands need to understand where they sit before picking strategies.  Evaluate the health of your brand using the Brand Funnel to understand where you are strong and should keep pushing or where you have a weakness (a Leak) that you need to close.
  • Focused Activities:  While everyone talks ROI, I talk ROE as well.  Return on Effort forces you to prioritize all your activities.

Stay aligned to your plan, and don’t be tempted away from your focus.  When you focus, five things happen.

  1. Better ROI:   With all the resources against one strategy, one target, one message, you’ll be find out if the strategy you’ve chose is able to actually move consumers drive sales or other key performance indicators.
  2. Better ROE:  Make the most out of your people resources.
  3. Strong Reputation:  When you only do one thing, you naturally start to become associated with that one thing—externally and even internally.  And, eventually you become very good at that one thing.
  4. More Competitive:  As your reputation grows, you begin to own that on thing and your are able to better defend the positioning territory
  5. Bigger and Better P&L:  As the focused effort drives results, it opens up the P&L with higher sales and profits.  And that means more resources will be put to the effort to drive even higher growth.
Invest in Your People:  Better Brand Leaders leads to better work and that leads to better Results 

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

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

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

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

Ask Beloved Brands to help train you  to be a better brand leader.
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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.