The skills, behaviors and experiences needed to be a great Marketer

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As you manage your own Marketing Career, you assess your skills, behaviors and experiences, to figure where your gaps that you should address. A marketer must build their capability around key skill areas strategy, analytics, positioning, planning and execution. The best marketers must exhibit leadership behaviors that take ownership and inspire others. And, they run their business like an owner. They can exhibit broad leadership across the entire organization. Finally, many of the more complicated areas of marketing takes experience. Over the years, I found myself saying “you almost screw up the first five times, you…” And, I started to realize, that message fit with advertising, managing others, brand planning, launching new brands, and leading beyond your own team. 

Nail the obvious

Let me start with the expected behaviors for success at any level of Marketing. Trust me, if you do not hit these, you will likely annoy someone enough to get rid of you. These are non-negotiable and if you miss continuously, they could become potentially career-limiting moves.  

What is non-negotiable:

  • Hit deadlines: Never look out of control or sloppy. Marketers have enough to do, that if you begin to miss deadlines, things will just stockpile on each other. Do not try to constantly negotiate extensions. There are no extensions, just missed opportunities.
  • Know your business: Avoid getting caught off-guard with questions that you cannot answer, such as P&L (sales, growth, margins, spend) market share (latest 52, 12, 4 weeks for your brand all major competitors) and your sales forecasts. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.
  • Be open with communication: There should be no surprises, especially with your boss. Keep everyone aware of what’s going on. When you communicate upwards, always have the situation, implications, options and then quickly followed by an action plan of what to do with it.
  • Listen and then decide: It is crucial that you seek to understand to the experts surrounding you, before you make a decision. Early in your career, use your subject matter experts to teach you. As you hit director or VP, use them as an advisor or sounding board to issues/ideas. They do want you to lead them,  so it is important that you listen and then give direction or push them towards the end path.
  • Take control of your destiny: We run the brands, they do not run us. Be slightly ahead of the game, not chasing your work to completion. Proactively look for opportunity in the market, and work quickly to take advantage. When you don’t know something, speak in an “asking way”, but when you know, speak in a “telling way”.
  • Able to use regular feedback for growth: Always seek out and accept feedback, good or bad, as a lesson for you. Do not think of it as a personal attack or setback. Identify gaps you can close, never think of them as weaknesses that hold you back. You should be constantly striving to get better.

Here is a presentation that can help you manage your career in Brand Management.

The crucial marketing skills

At Beloved Brands, we use a 360 degree view, where you need to be able to analyze, think, define, plan and then execute. And then repeat.

1. Analyze performance

  • Digs deep into data, draws comparisons and builds a story toward the business conclusionBrand Careers Skills Behaviors Experiences
  • Able to lead a best-in-class 360-degree deep-dive business review for the brand
  • Understands all sources of brand data—share, brand funnel, consumption, financials
  • Writes analytical performance reports that outlines the strategic implications

2. Think Strategically

  • Thinks strategically, by asking the right interruptive questions before reaching for solutions
  • 360-degree strategic thinking: core strength, consumers, competitors, situation, engagement
  • Able to lead a well-thought strategic discussion across the organization
  • Makes smart strategic decisions based on vision, focus, opportunity, early win and leverage

3. Define the brand

  • Defines ideal consumer target, framed with need states, insights and enemies
  • Consumer centric approach to turn brand features into functional and emotional benefits
  • Finds winning brand positioning space that is own-able and motivates consumers
  • Develops a big idea for brand that can lead every consumer touchpoint

4. Create Brand Plans

  • Leads all elements of a smart brand plan; vision, purpose, goals, issues, strategies, tactics.
  • Turns strategic thinking into smart strategic objective statements for the brand plan
  • Strong in presenting brand plans to senior management and across organization
  • Develops smart execution plans that delivers against the brand strategies

5. Inspire creative execution

  • Writes strategic, focused and thorough creative briefs to inspire great work from experts
  • Can lead all marketing projects on brand communication, innovation, selling or experience
  • Able to inspire greatness from teams of experts at agencies or throughout organization
  • Makes smart marketing execution decisions that tightens bond with consumers

Taking this a step further, you can use the assessment tool to identify gaps in your team.

Brand Careers Skills Behaviors Experiences

The leader behaviors

1. Accountable for results

  • Holds everyone accountable to the goals of their tasks
  • Makes it happen, get things done, don’t let details/timeline slip
  • Stays on strategy, eliminates ideas that are not focused against vision/strategy.
  • Works the system behind the brand, from sales to finance to operations to HR

2. People leadership

  • Manages core team: focus, communication, solutions, results, let others shine.
  • Interested in their people’s development and career development
  • Coaches, teaches, guides the team for higher performance.
  • Provides honest assessments to their people and upwards.

3. Broad influence

  • Active listener, seeks opinions, makes decisions, owns strategy.
  • Controls brand strategy, yet flexible to new ideas on the execution.
  • Carries influence throughout organization.
  • Thinks of others beyond themselves, empathy to pressures/challenges others are facing.

4. Authentic style

  • Aware of their impact on others within and beyond their team.
  • Exhibits leadership under pressure: results, ambiguity, change, deadlines.
  • Consistency in leadership in how they show up.
  • Flexibility in leadership: admits mistakes, challenges self, adjusts to new ways.

5. Runs business like an owner

  • Acts like a ‘Brand CEO’ accountable to the long-range health and profits of the business.
  • Makes smart decisions that adds to the health of brand, not their career or personal wealth.
  • Makes the right choices, good for the company, consumers, customers, market, society.
  • Lives and breathes the culture of those who work behind the scenes of the brand.

The necessary experiences 

Many of the hardest experiences a Marketer must go through almost takes 3-5 opportunities for the Brand Leader to really nail.  I remember how challenging it was for me the first time I launched a new advertising campaign.  Can I confess now that it was a complete disaster? I had no clue what the major steps were and no one on my side who could teach me. I was lucky that my client service person helped me through every step. Over the years, I would get better and better, learning something new each time. I then struggled the first time I managed a person for the first time. Then I struggled to launch a new brand. It is starting to sound like I was a disaster at everything. Well, I might be over-exaggerating, but I can tell you that i got better each time. And you will as well. 

The experiences that you need learn at each stage of the way include:

  1. Write Brand Plans: Writing a brand plan takes experience. I recommend you should learn some of the same skills through writing brand recommendations, writing a brand review or writing a section of the brand plan. Leading a Brand Turnaround: When the results are not meetings the expectations of the business, the pressure goes up exponentially and the scrutiny intensifies. If there is a hint of concern, senior leaders will roll up their sleeves and get involved.
  2. Launching new advertising: Launching a big new campaign from scratch involves a lot of crucial steps to manage, while dealing with the ambiguity of what makes a great creative and smart media choices. On top of that, it is essential to keep the agency motivated, while keeping your boss aligned.
  3. Managing a team: Managing can be such a challenge that when I worked at J&J, when we promoted someone to Brand Manager, we usually tried to avoid giving them a direct report. Most people mess up their first direct report. A similar pattern happens: excited to have someone do the little stuff they hate doing, then the person struggles so the manager does it themselves and gets mad at the person who can’t do it, then begins to think their direct report is incompetent. On the other hand, the direct report thinks their boss refuses to train them, gives them little feedback and is a control freak. Firing a Marketer: This sounds like a strange experience to put on the list, but it is one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make. I wish you never would have to fire one, but the reality is that you will. To make sure you are making the right decision, you really need to understand the role and be able to measure that person against the criteria for what they can and cannot do.
  4. Launching a new brand: While managing a brand is difficult enough, creating a brand from scratch involves every element of marketing from the concept to the product to naming to production, selling, shipping, advertising, displaying, promoting, and analyzing the performance. You better be great at Marketing before taking on a launch from scratch.
  5. Leading across organization: As you move into more senior leadership roles, a great way to extend your breadth across the organization is to take on more cross-functional roles, whether special projects or moving into a cross functional role. This allows you to begin seeing every corner of the organization through the eyes of other team players in sales, HR, operations and finance. 

Here is a tool to track your experiences from an entry-level up to a senior role. I tell Marketers that you should try to have a good balance as you move up, so you can avoid having any experience gaps when you hit a senior level. 

Brand Careers Skills Behaviors Experiences

Here is a presentation that can help you manage your career in Brand Management.

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth and profitability you will realize in the future.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. We use our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

We make brand leaders smarter, so they can unleash their full talent potential. We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at or call me at 416 885 3911

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant


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Graham Robertson

Graham spent 20 years in Brand Management leading some of the world’s most beloved brands at Johnson and Johnson, General Mills and Coke, rising up to VP Marketing. In his career, he has won numerous Advertising, Innovation and Leadership awards. Graham played a major role in helping J&J win Marketing Magazine’s prestigious “Marketer of the Year” award. Graham brings a reputation for challenging brand leaders to think differently and to be more strategically focused. Graham founded Beloved Brands in 2010, to help brands find growth and make brand leaders smarter. He leads workshops to help define your Brand Positioning, build your brand’s Big Idea, and write strategic Brand Plans that motivate and focus everyone that works on the brand. Our Beloved Brands training programs will help your team, produce exceptionally smart work work that drives stronger brand growth and profits. We cover everything a brand leader needs to know including strategic thinking, planning, positioning, execution and analytics. Our robust client roster has included the NFL Players Association, Reebok, the NBA, Acura, Shell, Miller Lite, 3M, Jack Link’s and Pfizer. His weekly brand stories have generated over 5 million views.

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