The new Brand Manager mistakenly thinks this role is about managing others because they finally get a chance to manage a direct report. However, the bigger part of this role is the transition from doer to owner. Yes, you will get your first chance to manage someone, but many times that effort can be a distraction from your chance to continue to learn and grow. Many first-time Brand Managers are disheartened to find out they are a disaster with their first direct report. I tell them they should try to improve with each new direct report and then they will feel more comfortable around the fifth direct report.
The five success factors for the Brand Manager role
1. Take ownership of the brand
A great Brand Manager takes ownership of the brand. Many Brand Managers will 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 Manager speaks 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. They want to be heard and have their expertise recognized. They recommend; 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. Able to give 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. Know how to work 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 Manager can see much clearer than others. 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. Achieve success while 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.
Ambiguity can kill the Brand Manager
The unknown of ambiguity and the time pressure of deadlines can work against each other. However, the best Brand Manager will figure out how to work them to their advantage, as they evoke the right balance of patience with ambiguity and the 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.
The stress of results
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. From my experience, most Brand Managers struggle with their first five direct reports. This is not meant as a bit of a cop-out from being a good manager, but rather a focus on using your first five experiences to learn how to be a good manager.
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.
Be the manager who gives feedback
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.
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.
Are you missing the necessary marketing skills?
The crucial Marketing skills you need. 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 brand performance
Great brand leaders must be willing and able to dig deep into data, draws comparisons and builds an analytical story to help draw out the business conclusions. They have to able to lead a best-in-class 360-degree deep-dive business review for the brand. They understand all sources of brand data—whether that’s coming from sales, consumption, market share, brand funnel data, market research or brand financials. Finally, the great brand leader must be able to write analytical performance reports that outline the strategic implications
2. Think Strategically
A brand leader must be able to think strategically, by asking the right interruptive questions before reaching for solutions. They must be able to employ 360-degree strategic thinking that looks at five types of strategic thinking: your brand’s core strength, consumer strategy, competitors, situation and consumer engagement. Strategic alignment is a crucial skill. They have to be able to lead a well-thought strategic discussion across the organization. Finally, the great brand leader must be able to make smart strategic decisions, based on vision, focus, opportunity, early win, and leverage.
3. Define your Brand
A brand leader must be able to define their brand. You must be able to define the ideal consumer target, framed with need states, insights and enemies. They must take a consumer-centric approach to turn brand features into functional and emotional benefits. And then, they must be able to bring it all together to find a winning brand positioning space that is own-able and motivates consumers. Finally, the great brand leader should be able to develop a Brand Idea that can lead every consumer touchpoint. There are five consumer touch-points including the brand promise, brand communication, innovation, purchase moment and the consumer experience.
4. Create Brand Plans that everyone can follow
The brand leader must be able to understand and lead all elements of a smart brand plan; vision, purpose, goals, issues, strategies, tactics. They must be able to turn strategic thinking into smart strategic objective statements for the brand plan. They must be strong in presenting brand plans to senior management and across the organization. And finally, the great brand leader must be able to develop smart execution plans that deliver the brand strategies
5. Inspire creative execution
The brand leader must be able to write a strategic, focused and thorough creative brief to inspire great work from experts. They must be able to lead all marketing projects on brand communication, innovation, selling or experience. And they must be able to inspire greatness from teams of experts at agencies or throughout the organization. Finally, the great brand leader must make smart marketing execution decisions that tighten bond with consumers.
What are your own skill gaps?
Taking this a step further, you can use the assessment tool to identify gaps in your team. Everyone has skill gaps at various parts of your career. Maybe you haven’t had the chance to gain experience in one of the core areas. And now you are thrust into a role where you need that skill.
Where you see skill gaps, you should invest in Marketing Training programs to help close those gaps. Today’s Brand Managers have not had the access to the Marketing Training that previous generations of Marketers have seen. It could be the result of budget cuts or the assumption you can learn it on the job.
To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.
With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.
You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.
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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.
We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring 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 brand 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.
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.
Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand
- Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
- Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
- Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
- Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
- Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
- Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.
To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching
To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training
If you need our help, email me at email@example.com or call me at 416 885 3911
You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.
Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.