Why do Marketers fail?

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The best marketers take ownership of the brand, provide a clear vision and set of strategies, know what they want, then goes and gets what they want, can handle the pressure of Marketing and spend the effort to make their Assistant Brand Manager as good as can be. So why do marketers fail?

Here are the real ten reasons why marketers fail:Why Marketers Fail

  1. You fail to make decisions. Stop bundling everything together, do too many things, and you never prioritize. Action over brains never works for long.
  2. Unable to translate data into analytical stories. You need to learn to turn data into issues, then strategies for approval, then action.
  3. Can’t get along with Sales, Agency or subject matter experts around you. They will talk openly about you, and destroy you.
  4. Struggle to deal with ambiguity. Seek clarity at the wrong moment for the sake of comfort. As a result, you opt for the safe/comfortable/easy option, rather than dig in to find the right answer. Marketers will miss answers by being stiff.
  5. You fall for tactics off strategy. When you are mesmerized by shiny tactical toys, it is like taking a holiday from the pursuit of your brand vision.
  6. Bad people Manager. Can’t delegate, selfish, nasty, untrusting, fearful of giving feedback. The best people won’t want to work for you.
  7. Poor communicators, with the boss, or partners. Dealing with you is frustrating. Being a poor communicator creates a lack of trust.
  8. Never follow your instincts. Don’t be the doubter,  who constantly second-guess themselves. It ends up with constant spin/re-think. Slow at moving work through.
  9. You can’t write or present strategically. The reality is that smart thinking must be sold in for approval. Learn to write with a strategic mind. Learn to present your plans whether it is in the front of a room or 1-on-1 over a sheet of paper.
  10. You settle for OK, rather than push for great. Boring work will fail to break through. OK becomes contagious. If you don’t love your work, how do you ever expect your consumer to love your brand?

Five success factors for Brand Managers

1. Ownership

A great Brand Manager takes ownership of the brand. Many marketers struggle with the transition from being the helper to now being the owner. As you move into the job, you have to get away the idea that someone will hand you a project list. Not only will you make the project list, but you should also come up with the strategies that set up the need for the projects.

The best Brand Managers speak with a telling voice, rather than an asking voice. It is great to be asking questions as feelers, but you must realize that most people on the team will be looking to you for the decisions. Your people want to be heard and have their expertise recognized. They recommend, and you decide. Even when managing upwards be careful you do not ask what you should do. A great boss will want you to tell them what you want to do, and let the debate begin from there. 

2. Strategic direction

A great Brand Manager provides a clear vision and set of strategies. You should create a vision for the brand, to serve as a rallying cry for your team. Let everyone know where you want to go. The strategic choices and your brand’s execution should match up with your vision. As the brand owner, you become the steward of the strategy. You should reject everything that does not line up with your vision. Learn to think in terms of strategic pillars, to steer, control, inspire and manage the various functions and Agencies who support your brand. You have to be the one to drive a consistent delivery on your brand, despite having a wide-ranging collection of people behind the brand.

3. Working the system

A great Brand Manager knows what they want, then goes and gets what they want. Organizations are filled with functional groups, layers, external agencies, with everyone carrying a different set of goals and motivations. To an outsider, every organization appears to be a collective mess. The best Brand Managers can see much clearer. They can quickly understand and appreciate the motivations of various key stakeholders, and use that knowledge to work the system. Your greatness comes from the greatness of the subject matter experts who work on your brand. You must get them to give you their best. Tap into their motivations, to ask for their best work. One secret that took me many years to figure out; if you want someone’s best work, sometimes it is as simple as asking for their best work. The reason it works is very few Brand Managers ask. 

4. Dealing with Pressure

A great Brand Manager can handle the pressure of Marketing, including ambiguity, the push for results, dealing with relationships and managing their time. If you can manage these four pressure points effectively, then you can even begin to use them against each other.

First of all, the unknown of ambiguity and the time pressure of deadlines can work against each other. However, the best Brand Managers figure out how to work them to our advantage, as they evoke the right balance of patience with ambiguity and persistence in getting things done. At every level, there is time pressure. Be organized, disciplined and work the system, so it does not get in your way.

If you are fully aware of the timelines, better than others on your team, you can use time pressure against your people to push for better work. I have found many subject matter experts, especially creative people, will choose the best path when pushed with time pressure.

For example, with creative advertising, I have pushed right up against a known timeline, and asked, “We do not see good enough ideas yet. What else do you have?” More often than not, the next answers are their best. If you wait too long, you might miss an opportunity. However, if you move too quickly, you can choose a suboptimal path. How long are you able to deal with an unknown variable on your brand, without losing your composure? Stay relaxed. The consequence of not remaining composed is it creates a scared and stressed-out team, who might make poor decisions that lead to poor results. It is a dangerous game. But, when played well, you can get the best from your team.

Another significant pressure for Marketers is when positive results do not come in. It can be frustrating but is a reality we face. Force yourself to course correct, re-examine the underlying issues, and regroup with your team to look at other options, rather than continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat.

There is pressure in relationships that many Marketers feel, but are not able to fix. I recommend you should be pro-active in making the first move to build a relationship. Try to figure out the motivations and frustration points in those you work with before they become a problem. You have to know where someone stands before you can figure out where you can move them. Common ground is usually not that far away.

5. Managing others

A great Brand Manager spends the effort to make their Assistant Brand Manager as good as can be. Most Brand Managers struggle with their first five direct reports. The key is to keep self-evaluating and looking for ways to improve with each direct report. It can be a struggle to shift from “do-er” to coach. It is always tempting to think you can do something faster, so you may as well do it. The problem is you just become the “super ABM.” Many Brand Managers fail to share the spotlight, so it becomes hard for you to showcase your Assistant Brand Manager.

But, you must believe the work of your Assistant Brand Manager will reflect positively on how good of a manager you are. Assistant Brand Managers need feedback—both the good and bad—to improve. I see too many Brand Managers not giving enough feedback. And, so many afraid of “going negative” so the ABM is left in the dark or left believing they are doing a good job.

Great Brand Managers take the time to teach up front, give the ABM some room to try it out and then provide hands-on feedback in real time. Use weekly meetings to give both positive feedback and address gaps. And, I believe Brand Managers should do quarterly performance reviews with their ABMs. At that level, an annual review is just not enough. They will learn faster with more feedback.

Free e-book on How to be successful in your Marketing career

To read more about how to succeed in Marketing, download our free e-Book on Marketing Success.

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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. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

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

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 graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

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Graham Robertson

Graham Robertson is one of the voices of today's brand leaders. As the founder of Beloved Brands, he has been a brand advisor to the NFL Players Association, Shell, Reebok, Acura, Jack Links and Pfizer. He's helped train some of the best marketing teams on strategy, brand positioning, brand plans and advertising. Graham's purpose is to use is marketing experience and provocative style to get marketers to think differently about their brands, and to explore new ways to grow. Graham spent 20 years leading some of the world's most beloved brands at Johnson and Johnson, Coke, General Mills and Pfizer, rising up to VP Marketing. Graham played a significant role in helping win Marketing Magazine's "Marketer of the Year" award. He has won numerous advertising and innovation awards including Businessweek’s best new product award. As a keynote speaker, Graham shares his passion for brands to challenge and inspire marketing minds around the world, whether speaking at Advertising Week, or at the NBA Summer League, or to a room full of marketers in Bangkok Thailand or an agency in New York. He's been a guest writer for Ad Age, and his weekly blog stories have reached millions of marketers, who are trying to improve their skills. His new book, Beloved Brands, has launched with rave reviews. Many brand leaders are using this book as a playbook to help build the brand they work on. And, it serves as a brand management textbook for business schools in the US, Canada and the UK. Graham’s personal promise is to help you solve your brand building challenges, to give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

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