Do you remember how you felt when you first landed your first marketing role? You likely went into marketing because you loved the strategy and the creativity that you saw the great marketers had done. Beloved Brands like Apple, Nike, Dove, Disney and Starbucks likely inspired you to get into this role. Unlike other occupations, you were drawn to it, and you wanted to bring an energy level to make a difference. It likely was hard to get that first marketing job–so many people wanted to get in. And you were so excited on that first day when you walked into the office and found your cubicle.
Your first few months on the job had you crashing and banging into everything. Every day, you heard “you can’t do that” or “we don’t do that here” which started to suck the life and energy out of you. And once you stopped doing those things, you noticed that your performance reviews went so much better. Then you got promoted and made it to a Brand Leader role. Congratulations. But now you have to make a choice: do you cave to corporate world and become the boring marketer that does OK work? Or do you try to reach back to those feelings you had when you entered marketing and find the way to bring it back into the mix with the more sophisticated knowledgeable marketer that you’ve now become?
Explaining what a Marketer does to non-Marketers is odd because we don’t really do anything. We don’t make the product, we don’t make the ads or public relations and we don’t even sell it. Yet the Brand Leader is held responsible for sales, share and profits. And they should be. While we don’t do anything, we do have a say in everything that goes on about the brand and we sit in the seat that can inspire everyone around you, or it can be the one that inhibits creativity and suck the life out of everyone around you. As you sit in the Brand Leader role, the worst thing you can ever do is say “Yes” to OK ideas. If you’ve ever said “Yes” to an OK idea, you know that you lost a bit of who you wanted to be.
My challenge to you is to REJECT OK, because OK is the enemy of greatness.
Saying “Yes” to OK is even more demoralizing than saying “we don’t do that here”.
Brands move along a Brand Love Curve, moving from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and onto becoming a Beloved Brand. Most brands find themselves stuck at the Like It stage–where they deliver adequate sales and share. Marketers of Like It brands fear losing those sales, so they opt for the status quo filled with OK ideas. The problem with status quo in today’s competitive environment is that you are likely falling back to Indifferent and you just don’t realize it. But it should make sense, because if you’re indifferent about your work, then why wouldn’t your brand end up there.
If you don’t love the work you do, then how do you expect the consumer to love your brand?
Rejecting OK work is not easy, especially if you have a reputation for playing it safe and approving OK. It is always tempting to look at all the work that’s been presented to you and figure out which one is the best. So you pick the 6 out of 10, and make some recommendations that might it up to a 6.5.
Because you don’t really do any of the work, not only do you need to REJECT OK, but you have to inspire the greatness to come from others.
Execution does matter. While we want great execution against great strategy, I’d say that great execution against an OK strategy is better off than OK execution against a great strategy. In today’s crowded marketing world, where consumers see 6,000 ads a day, standing out is more important than it ever has been.
If you are up for the change, you should start at the beginning of the process. Sit with your lead account person and lay out your deepest thoughts on how you want your passion for the work to come shining through. Find the language that translates your passion accurately at the outset and then be consistent to that passion throughout. Here’s what I have said in the past: “I know we need an Ad that delivers the strategy, sells more product and drives share. But I also need an Ad that I love, that I’m proud of and something I can hold up and say I DID THIS”. I always felt “I have to love it” is the highest bar you can set. It also gives you the out by saying “I just don’t love it”. Tell your account person, you are building in extra time in the process just so we can see if we can really push to get to great.
But saying is one thing, doing is another. Be consistent at every stage because people follow how you say it as much as what you say. Write an inspiring brief that is open on creativity, and isn’t filled with support points or mandatory requirements. Ask to meet the creative people before the first creative meeting so you can talk about your expectations that you want to create work we all love. At the creative meeting, you need to stay open, positive and push for different because that is usually where greatness lays. Follow your instincts first. Absorb the work in the same way your consumer might. Reach for words that describe your instincts and how you feel about the work. Stay open and inspiring. Do not get into all the details or the changes you want–save those for a post meeting email. Talk only about the work you love–don’t even talk about the ones you don’t like. You want your positive energy to come through.
It’s one thing to inspire but it’s another thing to actually go for it. I find it strange that Brand Leaders always push for a strategic point of difference no matter how small–but when it comes to execution many of us fear sticking our neck out and looking different. When it comes down to making the choice, you need to show everyone how serious you are by taking a chance on greatness and not just picking the safe options. You have to be wiling to fight for it, because you can imagine that there will be push back. This is your opportunity to shine, your opportunity to inspire everyone on your team and your opportunity to push for true greatness for your brand. And you’ll bring back those feelings of excitement that you had the day you decided to get into marketing.
You can only Reject OK, if you are willing to inspire greatness.
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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 LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1 or join us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BrandLeadership