Manage your own career with an honest self-evaluation

This time of year is when you sit down with your boss and have the dreaded annual performance review. It’s likely dreaded for a reason. You hate getting feedback and your boss hates giving feedback. It’s very common. These days performance reviews feel like a bit of jockeying. When you do you Self Evaluation, you avoid putting anything that can be used against you. And when your boss does your Evaluation, they will avoid putting anything that will imply a promotion, raise or even maintaining your employment.   

In general, the feedback gets worse when you move up. I think the Manager figures “they know what’s going on and am I really going to make a difference?” It’s almost easier to give that eager green Assistant Brand Manager feedback then it is to give a Senior Brand Manager, Director of VP good solid feedback.  

If you are managing your career, then give yourself feedback

Are you lucky enough to have a boss that puts a lot into the review? Does your boss focus on ways to help you to genuinely improve? Is there a plan you can follow that challenges you and yet help you to be successful? Does your boss care about your long-term career success? I sure hope so. I encourage Brand Leaders to be fully engaged in the careers of their team. The leader has to buy into the idea that the better the people, the better the work and in turn the better the results. For information on how to conduct a performance review, read the following story: How to Conduct a Performance Review.   

If you manage your career, (Managing Your Career from ABM to VP of Marketing) then you have to be willing to give yourself the most honest feedback you can. Below is a Tool I’ve used in coaching executives that will help to give yourself a Self Evaluation against the dimensions that would make up 1) Leading and Managing and 2) Brand Stewardship.

Go through each of the dimensions and give yourself a score in relation to your peers. A score of 5 means you’re the best in the department in a given area, a 3 means you are average and the scores of 1’s and 2’s would mean you have a gap. We all have gaps. The real question is what are going to do about closing that gap.   

Leading and Managing

This covers areas related to how well you lead your team: holding them to a high standard, coaching, motivating and showing up consistently.  

  • Hold your team to a consistently high standard of work in strategic thinking and planning.
  • Hold your team to a consistently high standard of work in execution in the market.
  • People Leadership: your team knows the team vision and is consistently motivated by where you want to go.
  • People Management: seen as actively interested in helping your team to manage their careers.
  • Coaching: Teach, guide and direct your team members for higher performance.
  • Training and Development: provides on-going skills development to make the team better.
  • Motivation and Recognition: you are seen to actively provide positive commentary to team players, one on one and in public.
  • Consistent Communication: Both written and spoken, big and small. Easily approachable and makes time to wander.
  • Actively Listens to Team: asks the big strategic questions, not the small tactical details
  • Leadership during times of pressure: results, ambiguity, change and deadlines.

Brand Stewardship

This would look at how you do in terms of the marketing of the brand. That looks at strategic thinking, quality of the output, processes and how well you show up to peers.

  • Takes the time each week to engage in deeper Strategic Thinking to ensure it’s not just about execution.
  • Has Crafted a Team Vision to help align & motivate team. Stewart of the Direction of the Brand and Gatekeeper to all things strategic
  • Challenges Team to stay on strategy, yet provides motivation for creative solutions.
  • Consistency in the Quality of marketing outputs:  Advertising/Media, Innovation/New Products and In-store/Promotion
  • Relationship with Agencies, able to motivate for better work.
  • Consistently in the relationships you’ve built with the Sales Team
  • Broad Influence beyond your team with core stakeholders:  R&D, Finance, HR, global.
  • Organization of the work flows. Your team gets things done on time.  Deadlines, on budget, on forecast.
  • Processes:  you organize, challenge and manage the processes so your team can execute.
  • Manages Up: Once aligned with the team you are able to effectively gain support from those above.  Seen as one to fight for your team.
Identifying Your Own Gaps

Using the two elements of the review above, identify what are the 3 areas from the Self Evaluation that you feel you need the most focus on? Then as you build your own personal plan for the year, ask yourself what is your objective/goal for each of those 3 areas. And then map out a plan of attack for the coming year? It might feel a bit crazy, but going through the process should help you identify where you need the most help. If you’re reluctant in sharing this with your boss, fearing how it might be used against you, then reach out to a friend and seek their advice. If you’re not comfortable with that, feel free to bounce some of your thoughts off me. I do this with many Brand Leaders. And don’t worry, we all have gaps. I struggled at different times in my career when dealing with the sales team and it took me a while to master the art of managing up. You might be able to learn from some of my mistakes.  

To download a copy of the self evaluation, you can find a word version at: 

To read more on managing your career, read the following presentation:

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders. Click on any of the topics below:

To see the training presentations, visit the Beloved Brands Slideshare site at:

If you or team has any interest in a training program, please contact me at

BBI Creds Deck 2016.014


Brand = Culture: How organizational culture can help your brand win

Most people think that that Brand is what the Marketers do. And Culture should be left to the Human Resources department. But in reality, everyone is responsible for both Brand and Culture. Creating a Branded Culture might be a great chance for Marketing and HR to be working together, and find ways to involve everyone from the Brand. The new Brand Leader has to understand that marketing is more than just TV ads and more than just Facebook likes. Brand is about the experience that consumers walk away with. If I am going through the drive-through at 4am or on the phone with customer service or getting an email with a Visa “special offer” from the Bank where I have my Visa, I am in constant judgment of your brand.  

5 ways that brands connect

Brands are able to generate love for their brand when the consumer does connect with the brand. I wish everyone would stop debating what makes a great brand and realize that all five connectors matter: promise, strategy, story, innovation and experience. The first connector is the Brand Promise, which connects when the brand’s main Benefit matches up to the needs of consumers.  Once knowing that promise, everything else feeds off that Promise. For Volvo the promise is Safety, for Apple it is Simplicity and FedEx it might be Reliability. It’s important to align your Strategy and Brand Story pick the best ways to communicate the promise, and then aligning your Innovation and the Experience so that you deliver to the promise. To ensure the Innovation is aligned, everyone in R&D must be working towards delivering the brand promise. You don’t create a new brand promise based on what you invent.  If someone at Volvo were to invent the fastest car on the planet, should they market it as the safe-fast car or should they just sell the technology to Ferrari. Arguably, Volvo could make more money by selling it to a brand where it fits, rather than trying to change people’s minds. As for the experience, EVERYONE in the company has to buy into and live up to the Brand Promise. As you can start to see, embedding the Brand Promise right into the culture is essential to the brand’s success.      


It starts with the Brand DNA

Everything in the company should feed off the Brand DNA. The Brand DNA (some call it the Brand Essence) is the most succinct definition of the Brand.  For Volvo, it’s “Safety”, while BMW might be “Performance” and Mercedes is “Luxury”. The Tool I use to determine a Brand’s DNA revolves around the Brand’s personality, the products and services the brand provides, the internal beacons that people internally rally around when thinking about the brand and consumer views of the Brand. What we normally do is brainstorm 3-4 words in each section and then looking collectively begin to frame the Brand’s DNA with a few words or a phrase to which the brand can stand behind.  


The DNA helps guide the Brand’s Management

The Brand DNA should help frame 1) Brand Plan that drives the business for the upcoming year or the next 5 years 2) Brand Positioning that connects to the consumer through marketing communications 3) Customer Value Proposition that links the consumer needs to the benefits of the brand 4) Go-To-Market strategy that frames the distribution and the selling process 5) Cultural Beacons that help define the brand internally through values, inspiration and challenge and finally 6) Business Results, with each brand offering a unique way that it makes money. Each of these six needs feed off the Brand DNA, look to the definition as a guideline for how to align to the brand.

When you begin to blow this out one step further, you can start to see where the complexity comes into play with each of the six areas have their own needs that should still feed off that Brand DNA.


The DNA sets up the Brand Values

Great Brand Leaders should be looking at the culture as an opportunity to win in the market place. No matter how good your promise is, if your company is not set up to deliver that promise, everything comes crashing down. The brand story told within the company is even more important than what you might tell the market through your advertising.

Managing organizational culture is very challenging. The DNA should provide an internal beacon for all the People in the organization to follow and deliver the brand promise. As you move along the Brand Love Curve from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and on to Beloved status, you need to make sure the culture keeps pace with where the brand is. 


While the DNA can provide the internal beacon, it might not be enough to capture all the behaviors.  Brand Values should come from the DNA, and act as guideposts to ensure that the behavior of everyone in the organization is set to deliver upon the Brand’s promise. How do you want your people to show up? What type of service do you want?  How much emphasis on innovation? What type of people do you want to hire? What behavior should be rewarded and what behavior is off-side.  Having the right Brand Values will help you answer these questions. The Brand Values become an extension of what the Brand Leader wants the brand to stand for.

A great example of Brand Values is the Virgin Group of Companies defines what  each value is, but also what it shouldn’t be. I love that Fun means enjoyment but not incompetent and Value means simple but not cheap.


The Right People leadership matters

Having values is one thing, but the other component of Culture is the right  people leadership.  Use the values to help people deliver upon the right behaviors, skills and experiences. Leaders must embody the Brand’s DNA and live by the values. Employees will be watching the Leaders to ensure they are living up to the words on the wall. Leaders need to believe that by investing in their people, the business results will come.  Better people produce better work and that drives better results. Talent management means hiring the right people and providing the right training. Too many companies are skimping on training and development, which is equivalent to cutting back on your R&D.   

Every communication to employees, whether in a speech or memo, should touch upon the Brand Values, by highlighting great examples of when employees have delivered upon a Brand Value. Leverage values, with inspirational touch points and processes to inspire and challenge them on achieving greatness. The culture will only change when everyone makes the decision to make the change.  

Brand Leaders should look to culture as an asset to make your Brand Experience more powerful.  


To download a copy of this article and share with your team, you can find a pdf version at (good for airplane reading): 

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. 


Positioning 2016.112

Focus your target by making sure you matter to those who care the most

“Selling to people who actually want to hear from you is more effective than interrupting strangers who don’t. “  Seth Godin

Strategy is all about making choices

Many Brand Leaders think they are good decision makers. Most Linked In profiles start by saying “I’m a strategic thinker”. But the flaw is they keep trying to be everything to everyone. The most important element of Marketing Strategy is the exact area where most Marketers struggle: FOCUS! I still see a fear among many marketers to make choices–whether it’s a target market, brand positioning or strategies or the allocation of spend.  Good decision-making starts with forcing yourself to use the word “or” instead of keep using the word “and”. If you aren’t making choices, then you aren’t really making decisions. So forget about decision making and start focusing on making choices. 

Find those who are the most motivated by what you do

I once talked to a Brand Leader who said that they had done their homework on their target and had come to the decision that it was “18-65, current customers, new customers and employees” My response was “why have you eliminated Tourists and Prisoners?” He laughed but I could see him starting to think “hmm, why not”. In that 18-65 age target, there are 3 generations who do not really understand each other. People write books about these generations.  Yet somehow you’re going to tell me you think you can find one common way of communicating with them. Now if I told you the Brand Leader was at a Bank, selling ‘first time mortgages’, then how crazy is 18-65? Yes, I know there could be some 64-year-old consumer who is really tired of renting for the last 43 years, but I’m sure they would understand that the bank targets a 32-year-old in their ads. Trying to sell to those that ‘might’ is not as powerful as selling to those that ‘will’.  

The most obvious target is those consumers already motivated to buy what you have to sell.   

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.  Whether you are a niche player focused on guerilla tactics, or the number two player attacking the category leader having a focused target market is crucial. I see a difference between a “buying target” which is those consumers who currently buy the product naturally without your effort and a “strategic target” of those consumers who you want to get to act–whether it’s considering, purchasing or continuing to buy. Rest assured that the buying target will not likely leave you because they aren’t in the strategic target–whether that’s in your TV ad or as part of your promotions. Think of it this way, anyone can still buy, but who do we think is most likely going to be influenced and motivated by what we have to sell.

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. There’s too much pressure to be a copy cat brand–your channel might be the first to reject you, but if not, the consumer surely will. The winning zone is to match up what your consumer wants and what you do best. Avoid taking your competitor on in the space that they are better than you or you’ll get your butt handed to you. Where you are both trying to meet the needs of the consumer and are equal in performance, be careful that the leader may win, unless you can find ways to connect emotionally, be more innovative or find ways to provide superior execution. But even then, this space is a risky place to play.

Know your consumer, and live on their insights

Insight is not something that consumers never knew before. That would be knowledge not insight. Insight is not data or fact about your brand that you want to tell. Insights are not statistics about the demographics, shopping patterns or purchase behavior.

Oddly enough, Insight is something that everyone already knows. Insight comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only who felt like that”. That’s why we laugh watching Seinfeld, when see the way that insight is projected with humor, why we get goose bumps during a movie when insight is projected with inspiration and why we cry during a romantic comedy when the insight comes alive through real-life drama.  Because they’ve captured how we already feel.

The dictionary definition of the word Insight is “seeing below the surface”. To get deeper, keep asking yourself “so what does that mean for the consumer” until you have an “AHA moment”. What are the beliefs, attitudes or behaviors that help explain how they think, feel or act in life, as it pertains to the relationship to your brand or category.   It’s not just data, trends and facts are insights. Facts are merely on the surface—so they miss out on the depth of the explanation of the underlying trends or feelings that caused the data.  (e.g.  In 1964, US teenagers saw the Beetles as an ‘escape’ from reality after the JFK assassination) Insights help tell the story, paint the picture or inspire the creative juices. Insights need to be interesting or intriguing. My challenge is to think beyond specific category insights and think about Life Insights or even Societal Trends that could impact changing behaviour.

We managed to talk the banker into a more reasonable target of 28-33, within a year of purchasing their first home. This target is going through so much life changing moments that at times they feel overwhelmed with all the change. Insights help bring more life to the target.

  • “Things in my life seem to be moving so fast–marriage, career, baby and now a house. I’m a feeling a bit overwhelmed but I guess it’s time for me to start growing up fast”
  • “I really have no business buying a house. I have no clue what I’m doing. I’m just trying to fake it.  Everything is so scary. And now the bank wants to know if i want fixed or variable. I felt so stupid asking what’s the difference”

Why focus on a defined Target?

Every brand is constrained by resources—dollars, people and time. Even the richest Brand Leaders complain about the lack of resources. Focus makes you matter most to those who actually might 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. I was leading a session and I asked who the key targets were.  The first answer was pretty good.  Then people around the room kept saying “well, what about…” and “we can’t forget…” and “we don’t want to alienate…” And the President says in serious tone: “we target everyone, because it could be anyone really”.

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. I was lucky that my first marketing job at General Mills was managing child cereals, where each quarter, I had to do a promotion on 5 different cereals. So, twenty times per year, I had to work with the 2 x 2 inch corner of the cereal box and put a message that would make a 5-year-old scream at their Moms to buy the cereal.  That taught me a lot about focusing my messaging.

Trying to do everything spreads your resources and your message too thin, so that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”. With a long to-do list, you’ll never do great 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. I once had a director working for me, who kept spinning around never getting anything done. His team was complaining that every time they started a new project, he’d come up with new ideas.  I sat down with him and asked him to bring his project list for the up-coming quarter. He came in with 83 projects!!! I said “how do we narrow this list down to five”. He looked at me like I was insane.

Trying to be everything means you end up being nothing.  

When you focus, four things happen:

  1. Better ROI: With all the resources against one strategy, one target, one message, you’ll be find out if the strategy that you have chosen is able to actually moves consumers, drives sales or enhances other key performance indicators. Did you actually get done what you wanted to get done? If you spread those resources, you may never see any movement and then figure your strategy is wrong.
  2. Strong Reputation: When you only do one thing, you naturally start to become associated with that one thing. With consumers, you get the reputation as the “fast one” or the “great tasting”. And internally, as people in the company start to align to your one thing, eventually you become very good at that one thing. Look at Volvo with “safety”. Every Volvo consumer message for 30 years is about safety. And internally, everyone at Volvo is fixated on safety, coming out with new safety innovations ahead of everyone else. Yes, Volvo’s have leather seats, go pretty fast, have a CD player and even come in multiple colors. But they don’t feel the need to have to say it.
  3. More Competitive: As your reputation grows, you begin to own that one thing and your are able to better defend the positioning territory. As categories mature, brands start to stake claims and if you’ve got something that’s unique, relevant and motivating, you’ll be able to own it. To win, you have to be either different, better or cheaper. Or you won’t be around for very long.  Defend your point of difference.
  4. Bigger and Better P&L: As the focused effort drives results, it opens up the P&L with higher sales and profits. With a better ROI, you get to go back to management and say “it worked” and they’ll say “ok, let’s increase the investment”. And that means more resources will be put to the effort to drive even higher growth. As you efficiently drive the top-line, the P&L opens up a bit and becomes easier for a brand leader to work with.

So if you’re a Brand Leader and you know that by focusing you’ll get a higher ROI which means even more resources and you know you’ll get a reputation and a position you can defend….then, why won’t you focus?

You have to matter the most to those who care the most


To see a training presentation on getting to a Better Creative Brief read the following: 



Positioning 2016.112

Ten Resolutions for Brand Leaders in 2013

Happy New Year!!!   

As we approach the new year, it’s a great time to come back fresh from the break and challenge yourself to get better.  In the words of T.S.  Eliot: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice”.

#1:  Take a walk in your consumer’s shoes. See the brand as they do. It’s not just about doing research and finding consumer insights. It’s about experiencing the brand as your consumer does. Bringing the consumer into everything you do tightening the connection. Consumers do not care what you do, until you care about what they want. In 2013, be the spokesperson who represents the consumer to your team and watch the work get better. When doing TV ads or digital ads, realize that the consumer now sees 5,000+ brand messages per day: Would this capture their attention, would they get it and would they do anything with it? Read the following article that puts the consumer front and center in what we do: Everything Starts and Ends with the Consumer

#2:  Ask bigger questions, get bigger answers. As a senior Brand Leader, it is easy to get so wrapped up in the details of the execution that you’re making the non-strategic decisions on behalf of the team. You have just really become the “senior” Senior Brand Manager that really annoys your team. Instead of providing the team with a vision, challenging on strategy or teaching the team, you’re telling them to make the flash bigger and change the sell sheet to purple. Instead of telling people what to do, why not challenge yourself to sit back slightly and ask the really tough challenging questions.  You’ll know you’ve asked a really tough question when you don’t even know the answer. To figure out the best questions, read:  Ask Bigger Questions, Get Bigger Answers

#3: Create more love for your brand and you’ll drive more power and profits for your Brand.   Brand Leaders are too logical for their own good. So much so that it’s holding their brand back from being great. To create more love for your brand, there are 5 sources of connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including the brand promise, the strategic choices you make, the brand’s ability to tell their story, the freshness of the product or service and the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you.  Once you have the connection with your consumers, use that power with retailers, media, competitors and even the very consumers that love you.  With added power, you’ll be able to drive bigger profits, with inelastic price, more efficiency in costs and consumers will follow your brand with every new product launch or category you enter.  Realize the magic formula and find more growth for your brand in 2013:  Love = Power = Growth = Profit.  To read more about this, follow this link:  Brand Love = Power = Profit

#4: Focusing makes your Brand Bigger. Lack of focus makes it Smaller. I still see Brand Leaders struggling to focus. They want as broad of a selling target they can find so they can speak to everyone, yet in reality they speak with no one. They want so many messages, mainly because they don’t know what the consumer wants, so they just say everything they can think of. And they choose every media option because they don’t even know where they are, so they try to be everywhere. When you don’t make a choice, you don’t make a decision. Great marketers make choices–they use the word “or” instead of “and”. They apply their limited resources against the biggest potential win–with a focused target, focused message and focused medium to shout it in. They look bigger than they are to those who are the most motivated to already buy. To challenge yourself to focus, read:  Brand Focus Makes You Bigger

#5:  At every turn, ask yourself “DO I LOVE IT?” Reject all work that is “just ok” because OK is the enemy of Great.  Moving your brand from indifferent to Like It is relatively easy:  good product, smart investment and doing the basics right. But moving from “Like It” to “Love It” can be a herculean task. If you want your consumer to love your brand, you have to love the work you do. Look at the love Apple projects to its consumers through the magic of design, branding and marketing. Never let something out that’s “just ok”.  If you’re indifferent, then you’re brand will be as well. Challenge yourself in 2013 to lead yourself with passion equal to logic and find a way to love the work you do.  Read the following article at:  Reject OK because OK is the Enemy of Greatness

#6: Find your point of difference by being different. Brand Leaders always try to find that nugget as their point of difference. They get so logical and then try to make it a big deal in the consumers mind, even though many times the consumer does not care. And yet, these same Brand Leaders play it so safe that their work looks and feels just like everyone else. In 2013, push yourself to be different in your execution.  If the consumer sees 5,000 brand messages a day, they’ll only be attracted to something they’ve never seen before.  All the ‘me-too’ messages will be lost in a sea of sameness.  Whether it is new products, a new advertising campaign or media options push yourself to do something that stands out. Don’t just settle for ok. Always push for great.  If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?  The opposite of different, is indifferent and who wants to be indifferent. Read the following link:  The Art of Being Different

#7: Care more about the careers of your people: The best way to connect with your team is to care about their careers. If you are authentic i how you approach their development, they’ll do listen to your advice, follow your lead and give more effort than ever. If they feel they are getting the training and development needed, they’ll likely stay longer with your company. If they have added skills and motivation, their performance will be even better and if the work gets better, then the results will be better. For you the equation is simple: The better the people, the better the work and in turn the better the results. To read more on how to help with their careers, read the following link:  Managing Your Marketing Career (Free Download)

#8: Create a culture around your brand—Brand should be everyone’s job, not just marketing.  There are hundreds and sometimes thousands of people impacted by the vision, mission and values you set out for the brand. While most people will think the Brand Manager leads the brand, it’s the collective wisdom of all those who touch it. From Sales People negotiating on the brands behalf to HR people who pick the right people to various Agencies, right down to the Editor who works just one day on your brand.  Motivate them, embrace them, challenge them, lead them, follow them and reward them. Great people make great work and great work leads to great brands. In 2013, challenge yourself to realize that you need more than just you living the brand, you need everyone living and breathing it. The best case study on how to drive the brand right into the culture is Ritz Carlton: Ritz Carlton

#9: Be a better client and get better work: I get asked a lot: “So what is it that makes someone good at advertising?”.  I always think people are looking for some type of magical answer, but the answer I give is always very simple yet if you think about it very complex: “They can consistently get good advertising on the air and keep bad advertising off the air”. It all starts with being a better client thought. As David Ogilvy said “Clients get the work they deserve”. If you are your agency’s best client, you are much more likely to get the best of their work. To get better, read an article on the Worst Type of Clients

#10: Be a better Brand Leader. Be more Consumer focused and live as though Everything Starts and Ends With the Consumer in Mind. That’s why you got into this business isn’t it? Follow Your Instincts and use the gut feel of Marketing. If you have more fun, so to will the consumer. Revel in Ambiguity and be more patient with Ideas. It’s ok not to know for a little bit because that’s when the best answers come to the surface.  Actively Listen and  use more questions than answers. Focus on the People and the Results will come. Here is an article for you: Eight Brand Leader Behaviors

I really hope you try one of these out in 2013. And I hope you see the difference.  

Here’s to a Great Year in 2013!

To find ways to make your brand more loved, read the following presentation:


Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management.

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

To contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.

Positioning 2016.112

Finding your Work Life Balance makes you a Better Brand Leader

work life balance MännchenDuring my career, I always have felt that being able to keep my balance was one of my competitive advantages. While my peers were burning out, somehow I was able to stay fresh, energized, creative and positive. I have always said that what kept me going was a love of the work. But secretly, what really kept me going was to know when enough was enough, finding small ways to rejuvenate myself and always keeping things in perspective. It’s a fact that actuaries have the longest life expectancy of any job. It’s a 9-5 job, compete certainty, follow the process and go home. But, even with a shorter life, I’d still rather be a marketer.

Dealing with pressure

Marketing jobs are very hard. The pressure is immense. The pressures of deadlines, career advancement, politics, budgets, making the year, uncertainty, conflicts with others all adds up. The pace of the jobs can wear you down. While your calendar is jam-packed with meetings, everything is due yesterday.   While you know the big planning dates, because you’re doing approvals on packaging or fixing your forecast, those dates somehow creep up faster than you want some years. While the variety in the job is stimulating, it too takes its toll.  It’s hard being a jack of all. As you move up, you’re not allowed to really have weaknesses–you need to be strategic yet creative, organized yet flexible, decisive yet open, able to give feedback and yet receive it. It’s all about continuous improvement just to keep up in the job. If you’re a working mom or dad, then you are likely running around every week night and weekend. You might be rushing to the day-care but you’re also signing back on after the kids are in bed.

As we get to the holiday period, this week is likely the quietest week in your office. Half the staff has bolted for the holidays. Aside from you getting your last-minute accrual in to finance, completing all the HR things you forgot to do from October and doing as much work as you can just to catch up so you can get a few days off, this is a great time to start to think about work life balance.

Ask yourself these two questions:

  • This year, on a scale of 10, how good is your work life balance?  
  • In 5 years, on a scale of 10, what would your goal for what you would like your work-life balance to be?

If the answers are different, then you have a problem. Do you really think your answer will be any different or will you just have a new set of challenges in 5 years. Well, this week is a great chance to have that life-changing “ah-ha” moment where you take a look and adjust. Make a new year’s resolution that you want to live a more balanced life in 2013.

Think of your career like a long-distance race, not a series of sprints.

f9eb6317cf4d5042b7c2547be0c65160.jpgAs you come up to your new years resolutions, maybe it’s time to think about work-life balance. Instead of feeling guilty about it, look at this as a competitive advantage that can make you even better.

Here’s my work-life balance tips I have used for years to keep my balance:

  • Never work on weekends. If you are going to stay energized and creative in your role then you need that 48 hour break to stay fresh. I’d prefer to work Thursday night till 10pm to get what I needed to get done. This will help you live a more balanced life.
  • When you look at your weekly calendar at the start of each week, or each day, challenge yourself to get a major task done in the morning and then get a major task done in the afternoon. That means you do COMPLETE at least two things from your project list each day. At the end of each week, you will have COMPLETED 10 major tasks–far better off then if you hadn’t. The alternative is getting to the end of the week, driving home and saying “damn it, i forgot to get that report out”. This is a simple system that knocks things off your to-do list and you’ll be shocked at how good it makes you feel. If you think this is too simple, my challenge to you is did you get 10 major things done list week?
  • Also in your calendar, create 5 fictional meetings that you can use for thinking time. Thinking, whether strategic or creative, is a part of the job.  But you can’t do it with wall-to-wall meetings from 8 till 5pm.  Many leaders who like to be active, forget about the thinking. They become known as “do-ers” not “thinkers”. People will look to them to get things done. They’ll call them “good soldiers”. And yet, they get stuck somewhere on the org chart because they forget to think. This will give you an ownership of your calendar that ensures you do at least 5 hours of thinking time.
  • Take up walking–at least 30-60 minutes a day. While it burns off some calories, it’s a great way to stay balanced. It’s the best thinking time you can do. Driving is also a good time, but doesn’t burn off any calories. I would bet half my ideas came from walking time. If you have “No Time”, then get off the subway 5 stops earlier. Go for a walk at lunch with a buddy. Or better yet, have a walking Meeting at some point in the day. Steve Jobs used to do walking meetings all the time. I love these and when i do workshops for teams, I always put in a 15 minute walking exercise. This allows you get away from the hustle and bustle of things and open your mind a bit.
  • When you come off a big busy crunch period, it is time to spoil yourself. Use the next 3 days as slacker days. And in those 3 days, do something, go somewhere and eat something that’s a favorite.   Spas, massages, hamburgers across town, old movies, reading a book, taking a long hot bath. Your call. But while the last few weeks or months have been a sacrifice  now it’s time for a bit of “me time”. This rewards you for the sacrifice you just made over the past few weeks/months. It will get you back in the game ready for the next sacrifice, because you know you’ll reward yourself after.
  • When you go on vacation and shut it down, you have to shut it down completely. Get rid of the phone, the laptop. Stop checking voice mail. If your mind is on fun and work at the same time, you won’t be much fun. If you have a great vacation then you’ll be even better when you get back to the office, ready to go.
  • Get yourself better organized. If you feel in control of everything, then you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to achieve balance. If you are constantly chasing your tail, you’ll burn out. I’m always organized–which I always say allows me to know where I can off-course because I know the entry point for getting back on track. This will help you to live a bit simpler and find the balance easier.
  • Isolate the planning period to ONE MONTH. These companies that do planning for 9 of the 12 months…. seriously? When are you suppose to do your job. Planning should be 3-4 weeks maximum.   If you do a 1-2 strategic workshop with the 10 people on your brand, you can easily get your plan to the 70% stage and use the rest of the time to improve and tighten it up. But if you’re always planning then when are you doing the work.Doing up fancy chart after fancy chart does not make you a better strategic thinker. It makes you worse. Stop it.
  • Write a plan you can do easily. I always try to get my clients to focus on 3 strategies with 3 tactics per strategy. That gives you 9 major things you have to do in the coming year. Think about how good of a job you would do on those 9. Compare that to a plan with 7 strategies and 7 tactics per strategy. 9 vs 49. You do the math and see who will be a better marketer, who will look like they are doing the job with complete ease. I once asked one of my directors to show me his project list and he said he had 87 major projects due this quarter and the list was always changing because we keep coming up with better ways.  His team all wanted to quit and he burned out months later.
  • Don’t create work for others and they likely won’t create work back for you. I remember as I was a new director, I used to send out notes that created work for my team. Do this….look up this….complete this for me. Then I started to notice they’d have questions for me, or send me back the answers and ask for my feedback. I started to notice the loop: The more work I create for others the more work that I create for myself. So stop it!!! I did.
  • Have a “work out” session with your team. Map out all the ideas and prioritize them on big vs small and easy vs difficult. Try to do all the big and easy ideas and avoid the small and difficult ones.   These time wasters just don’t matter and they are a drain on resources.
  • Keep perspective. It’s just Marketing. Yes, these jobs are amazing. They are fun. It’s what we do. But it is just a marketing job! We aren’t saving lives, fixing world peace or world hunger. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun with it. If Marketing isn’t fun, then you are doing it wrong. 

Take a Breather to really change the way you live your life. Find your balance. Force yourself to rejuvenate. Do something for your health.

Stop thinking that Work-Life balance is a weakness. Think of it as a competitive advantage.  

Here is a lunch-and-learn presentation we do for Marketing teams on how to manage your career in Brand Management.


Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

Positioning 2016.112

How to ask big questions that get to big strategic answers

In our marketing careers, we start off in a doing-role and get completely swamped in execution. We think “if only I had a higher level job, I’d actually have time to think, rather than just do”. The problem for many of us, is not only do we get good at the doing, we get so good that we can’t get past it and we never end getting to the real strategic thinking. We just become a do-er at a higher level and drive everyone crazy beneath us.

When I talk to many of the senior Brand Leaders, at the VP and Director level, I hear 3 common things:

  1. “I am too busy and I have no time for strategic thinking”
  2. “My team lacks the experience so I have to jump in resolve issues myself”
  3. “If I didn’t jump in, it just wouldn’t get done right”

Are you really Strategic?

Everyone out there claims to be a strategic thinker, but I would guess that really only half of us really are strategic.

  • 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 planning who can see connections.   This is PLANNING!
  • Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions.   They get to answers quickly, and will get frustrated in the delays of thinking.   They think doing something is better  then doing nothing.   They opt for action over thinking.    They are impulsive and doers who see tasks.  They are frustrated by strategic thinkers.  This is EXECUTING!

As a senior Brand Leader, it is easy to get so wrapped up in the details of the execution that you’re making the non-strategic decisions on behalf of the team.   You have just really become the “senior” Senior Brand Manager that really annoys your team.   Instead of providing the team with a vision, challenging on strategy or teaching the team, you’re telling them to make the flash bigger and change the sell sheet to purple.

If you speak in a telling voice, you leave your team with one answer:  YES.   If you speak in an asking voice you leave your team with 3 answers:  YES, NO or let me dig in a bit more and find out.  

Instead of telling people what to do, why not challenge yourself to sit back slightly and ask the really tough challenging questions.  You’ll know you’ve asked a really tough question when you don’t even know the answer.   There’s nothing wrong with stumping the team, because you’re even stumping yourself in the process.

So what are the tough questions to ask?  

As your team might be at the beginning stage of digging in on analysis, here’s are 10 great questions to ask your team:

  1. How do we make money? This focuses them on figuring out the pathway from the activities on the brand to the results in the market and the profitability on the balance sheets. The most beloved brands use the consumer connection to create a source of power that they can use on various areas of the market and then use that power to drive the brand’s profitability.   Your team should be able to map this out and use it as a roadmap for the brand’s future.   If you’re not focused on power and profit, then you’re not strategic.  
  2. What is it that makes us different?  The best of brands are either better, different or cheaper. Or not around for very long. If you can’t answer this question, then how do you expect your consumer to be able to answer. You’re likely just a me-too brand and once that’s discovered, you’ll be on a downward spiral.   
  3. Why are we here?  How did we get here?  Where could we be? It’s great for getting to the vision, without writing the word “vision” up on the board and saying to everyone “ok go”. That gets you no-where. Pick a magical date of 5-10 years from now and say “if you got everything you wanted, what would the brand look like in 5 years?”  Push them hard on the where to, because that’s when the brand starts to transform itself.  
  4. What’s holding us back from being where we want to be? Once you get the team focused on the vision of 5 to 10 years from now. This allows you to start attacking your brand, to find the inhibitors that you can try to unleash or course correct.  
  5. Which would be easier: getting our most loyal users to use more, moving up those who have already bought into the brand to start using regularly or getting a new user? This is pushing them towards a strategic choice, whether to focus on base users or new users–penetration or usage frequency. It also should start to force you to look at your brand funnel to see where you have strength and where you have gaps. Every brand should be utilizing a brand funnel. It’s almost negligent to not use one. That’s like working out at the gym and not knowing your blood pressure or cholesterol scores. When you layer in What would make us more Money, you might start to see the ROI impact of the same decision.  
  6. What would our consumer say about our brand? This shifts the focus of the discussion from a myopic brand focus into thinking about the consumer first. Everything you do should be start and end with the consumer in mind.  After all, if you figure out how to win over the consumer, you become more powerfully connected and can drive greater growth and profits through that power   
  7. For Strategy, what choices are on the table that helps you gain a foothold into the market but also helps to drive the long-term win? A test for any great strategy is whether it has all 4 key elements. 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.   Pick a tight target market of those who can love you, and pick a unique position that you can stand behind and win. 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. Find that connection with your consumer—moving them along the love curve.  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.  Your brand finds a way to turn the consumer connectivity into a source of power the brand can leverage.Seeing beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, which is the entrance or a means of access to something even bigger. It could be getting to the masses, changing opinions or behaviors. Return on Investment or Effort, where you can translate all the power you’ve earned into profits and brand value.
  8. For any choice related to brand positioning and go-to-market, whether it’s target market, main message, media choices or activities, force their hand by asking a few questions to ask: 1) which one gets us on our way to vision faster? 2) which one helps us grow faster  3) which one makes us more money? Always push your team to focus by making them use the word “or” instead of “and”. If you think you are a strategic decision maker, then whenever you choose both, you’ve failed.   When you go into a casino, and put one chip on each of the 38 choices on the roulette wheel, it might be fun, but you’ll never win. By targeting everyone then you’re not making the choice, you’re just depleting your resources. And you run the risk that no consumer ever says “wow, that brand is really speaking to me.”
  9. When seeing new creative execution of anything, ask “DO YOU LOVE IT?” and then watch their eyes.  Do you think our costumer will love it?  Is this connected to personal pride or are they just passing the buck filling in forms. Getting something to market, big or small takes a herculean effort to overcome obstacles. I want to know on day 1, will they fight for it? A great idea that falls on the vine is worth less than an OK idea executed with passion.  If we don’t love the work we do, then how do we expect the consumer to love the brand?    OK is the enemy of greatness.  
  10. Why do you want to spend this money? If you are about to spend millions of dollars, I want to hear the reason why you think it’s crucial, why it will pay back even greater than the resources we put forward. Understanding and aligning to one key objective allows everyone to focus on the outcome.   

And finally, the most important question of all: What do your instincts think we should do? And then listen. You might be surprised by the good thinking on your team and you might be surprised that their answer is better than the one that is in your head.  

This might be most obvious of questions, but how many times per week do you ask this? Imagine the responses you might get from that.  Imagine how motivated your team would be. As a leader, I want you to start exhibiting more patience. You have to learn the art of questioning that sets up the listening. If you learn this skill you’ll start to realize that you can still control the direction of the brand through questions, even more than through direction. On the plus side, you’ll have a fully engaged, motivated team that’s ready to deliver.

As a Brand Leader at the executive level, you should walk into every meeting telling yourself “I know less about this than anyone in the room” and that puts you in the most powerful position to ask the right strategic questions and listen for the right strategic answers.

The bigger the question, the bigger the answer.

To help improve your strategic thinking, read the following presentation:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept.custom_business_card_pile_15837We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management.

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

To contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.

Positioning 2016.111
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The Top 10 worst types of Advertising clients. Don’t be one of these?

Slide1The best clients respect the process, the agency and their own judgment. And yet, most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting to great creative. As a Brand Leader, if you knew that showing up better would get you better advertising, do you think you could?  Or are you stuck being one of these types of Clients?

I come at this from the vantage of a fellow client. I’m not an Ad Agency guy, never having worked a day at an agency in my life. But I’ve seen all these types of clients. I’d like you to laugh a little and think “hey I know that guy”. But I’d also like if you see a little of yourself in a few of these and if you’re into personal growth and improvement, challenge yourself to get better and stop being that guy.

I get asked a lot: “So what is it that makes someone good at advertising?”.  I always think people are looking for some type of magical answer, but the answer I give is always very simple yet if you think about it very complex: “They can consistently get good advertising on the air and keep bad advertising off the air”.

Most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting great creative. If there are 100 steps in every advertising development stage and you show up OK at each step, how are you possibly thinking you’ll end up with a GREAT ad at the end? Did you ensure that your team has a very tight creative brief that’s based on insights and instincts?  Were you fully engaged and motivating to everyone that touches the brand? Were you a proactive decision maker who provided necessary challenge and direction in the spirit of making the work better? Did you push it up and through the system and gain approval from management?

Here are the 10 Worst Types of Clients
#1: “You’re The Expert”: 

While intended to be a compliment to the Agency, it’s a total cop-out!  You really just give the agency enough rope to hang themselves. As a Brand Leader, you play a major role in the process.  You have to be engaged in every stage of the process and in the work. Bring your knowledge of the brand, make clear decisions and steer the work towards greatness.  

#2:  “I never Liked the Brief”:

These passive-aggressive clients are usually insecure about their own abilities in the advertising space.  They keep firing their agency instead of taking ownership, because it’s easier to fire the agency than fire yourself.  A great Brand Leader never approves work they don’t love. If you don’t love the work, then how do you expect the consumer to love your brand?

#3:  Jekyll & Hyde:

When Brand Leaders bring major mood swings to the Ad process, it’s very hard for the agency. The worst thing that could happen is when your mood swing alters the work and you end up going into a direction you never intended to go. Brand Leaders have to stay consistent so that everyone knows exactly who they are dealing with.   

#4:  The Constant “Bad Mood”:

I’ve seen clients bring the death stare to creative meetings where hilarious scripts are presented to a room of fear and utter silence.  Brand Leader must motivate all those who touch their brand.  Be the favorite client that people want to work for. Advertising should be fun. If you are having fun, then so will your consumer.

#5:  The Mystery Man that’s Not in the Room:

When the real decision maker is not in the room, everyone guesses what might please that decision maker.   As a Brand Leader, you have to make decisions that you think are the right thing, not what your boss might say. Make the ad you want and then find a way to gain alignment and approval from your boss.

#6:  The dictator:

Revel in ambiguity and enjoy the Unknown. Great ads ‘make the brand feel different’. If we knew the answer, it wouldn’t be different, would it?  If a Brand Leader comes in with the exact ad, then it’s not really a creative process, it just becomes an order taking process. When you TELL the agency what to do, there is only one answer: YES. But when you ASK they agency, then there two answers:  YES and NO.

#7:  The Mandatories:  

Clients who put 5-10 Mandatories on the brief forces the agency to figure out your needs instead of the advertising problem. You end up with a Frankenstein. My challenge to Brand Leaders is if you write a very good brief, you don’t need a list of Mandatories.

#8:  The Kitchen Sink.

The “just in case” clients who want to speak to everyone with everything they can possibly say. If you put everything in your ad, you just force the consumer to make the decision on what’s most important. When you try to speak to everyone, you end up speaking to no one.   

#9: Keeps Changing Their Mind:

Advertising is best when driven by a sound process. It’s creativity within a box.  And if the box keeps changing, you’ll never see the best creative work.

#10:  The Scientist:

Some clients think THERE IS AN ANSWER.  And the world of SEO and Digital seems to be encouraging this mindset more than ever.   Where you might see precision, I see navel gazing.  Be careful of navel gazing analytics. You might miss blue-sky big picture or the freight train about to run you over. As a Brand Leader, you can’t always get THE answer. Too much in marketing eliminates risk, rather than encourages risk taking.  That only helps you sleep better, but you’ll dream less.

You likely have the best intentions for your business.   And you likely believe that having a good relationship with the agency is crucial and you work at it.  But if you suffer from any of these, you might be holding back your contributions into the process.  

Here’s a presentation on How to Be a Better Client

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. How to Write a Brand Plan: The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan: How to Write a Brand Plan
  4. 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 

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. 

 Positioning 2016.112

How to manage your Marketing career from ABM to CMO

At every level you have to adjust to the new role. Brand Managers fail when they keep acting like ABMs and Directors fail when they keep acting like Brand Managers and VPs fail when they don’t know what to do.  In a classic marketing team, the four key roles are Assistant Brand Manager up to Brand Manager then up to Marketing Director and on to the VP Marketing role.

Marketing roles by level

In simple terms of each of the roles, here’s a how to for all four levels:

  • 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
  • VP Marketing or CMO: It’s about leadership, vision and getting the most from people. If you are good at it, you won’t need to do any marketing, other than challenging and guiding your people to do their best work. You have to deliver the results, and very few figure out the equation that the better the people means the better the work and in the end the better the results. Invest in training as a way to motivate your team and keep them engaged. Use teaching moments to share your wisdom. Read the following article for how to be a success:  How to be a Successful VP of Marketing

One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve which shows up at every level. The basic rule of the Idiot Curve is: You get dumber before you get smarter. When you first land the ABM job, there’s just so much to learn, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day. It’s over-whelming at first, and yet you see all these other ABMs doing it so that’s even more intimidating. But the idiot curve is inevitable. It just shows up differently for each person. No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve. (But, please fight through the curve; you have to for your survival)  The Idiot Curve normally lasts up to 3 months, and then things just start to click. And you’ll experience it in a new and exciting way you can’t even predict. 

slide123But the Idiot Curve shows up again in the first few months of each level. In the first few months as a Brand Manager, they keep doing the ABM role because that’s what they know. They frustrate the hell out of their ABM. They keep recommending and acting small rather than start deciding and stepping up to the leadership role. At the Director role, they continue to be the Brand Manager. They get nervous where they shouldn’t, whether it’s with senior people in other functions or even within marketing. They prefer to keep doing, and in those moment there is nothing “to do”, they walk around and start doing other people’s jobs. At the VP level,the first few months are lonely as you no longer have peers you can bounce ideas off. Your peers assume you can do the job, and they don`t want to hear your problems. At each level, you secretly feel like an Idiot. You don’t want it to show, but in a way, you should use it to your advantage.

Marketing Values for All Levels

There are core marketing values you should instill and use throughout your career:

  1. Be Consumer Focused: Everything Starts and Ends With the Consumer in Mind. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and think like them. Steve Jobs said he never needed research, but he must have been amazing at listening, observing and anticipating how the consumer would react. I’d still recommend you do research, but go beyond the statistics of the research and learn how your consumer thinks. Whenever I go to focus groups, I watch their faces. And when the research results come back you always have to ask “so now what do we do”. The research helps you, but never gives you the exact answer. Match up the needs of the consumer to your brand assets to figure out your ideal brand positioning. The best marketers represent the consumer to the brand, NOT the brand to the consumer. I always believe that consumers are selfish and deservedly so because they have money to spend. As a consumer, I don’t care what you do until you care about what I need.  Focus on them, not on you.
  2. Follow Your Instincts: Gut Feel of Marketing: Listen to your inner thoughts, they are in there. Too many times people fail because “they went along with it even though they didn’t like it”. The problem is that sometimes your instincts are hidden away. You get confused, you feel the pressure to get things done and you’ve got everyone telling you to go for it. You get scared because you’re worried about getting promoted and want to do the ‘right thing’. But your gut is telling you it’s just not right. My rule is simple:  if you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand. The worst type of marketer is someone who says “I never liked the brief” or “I never liked the ad”. If you blame your agency or team after the fact, I have a word for people like you: ”useless”.
  3. Revel in Ambiguity: Be Patient with Ideas.  Never be afraid of an idea and never kill it quickly.  Watch the signals you send that make suck the creativity out of your team.   If you become too predictable to your team, then your work in the market will also become predictable.  Ambiguity and time pressure usually work against each other.  Don’t ever settle for “ok” just because of a deadline.  Always push for great. What I have found is the longer I can stay comfortable in the “ambiguity zone” the better the ideas get whether it’s the time pressure that forces our thinking to be simpler or whether it’s the performance pressure forces us to push for our best idea, I always say, the longer I can hold my breath, the better the work gets.
  4. You Run the Brand, Don’t Let the Brand Run You: Be thoroughly organized, well planned and know the pulse of your business. Every six months, I would find a quiet time to answer five key questions that would help me stay aware: 1) Where are we? 2) Why are we here? 3) Where could we be?  4) How can we get there? and 5) What do we have to do to get started? In an odd way, the more planning you do, the more agile you’ll be, because you’ll know when it’s ok to “go off plan”  Stay in Control: Hit the Deadlines, don’t give the appearance that you’re not in control. We have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other. Know your Business and don’t get caught off-guard.  Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge. Enjoy doing the monthly report because it makes you the most knowledgeable about the brand. Stay conceptual; avoid getting stuck in the pennies or decimals.Process should enable us, not hinder us: A good process can force your thinking towards a solution. If it restricts your thinking, it’s not a good process. But if it means, you free up your time for strategic thinking, instead of format thinking, we’ll move much faster.
  5. Be the Brand Leader not the Follower: The more you keep your boss informed the more rope they may give you. If they don’t know what you’re doing, they may clamp down and micro-manage you. . Ensure a policy of open communication with no surprises: Make sure you keep your team informed and involved. Keep senior management informed. You must be the champion of the brand. The best ideas are those that erupt out from the brand team–not from a top down perspective. You have to be a self-starter that pushes your idea through the system, in the face of resistance or doubt.  And you will meet resistance from so many people in the system. All the best work I ever did met a large degree of resistance. You have to anticipate this and work through it. One subtlety to ownership is your tone. When you don’t know something, speak in an “asking way” and openly seek out the wisdom and advice of your agency, your manager or your peers. Put your ego aside and listen. But equally, when you do know the answer, speak in a “telling way” that gets others to follow you, including senior management.
  6. Speed, Simplicity and Self Confidence: a) Speed: We don’t do things fast for the sake of it; we do things fast so we can take advantage of opportunities that have a window. If you recognize an opportunity, realize that others are also recognizing the same opportunity. So speed to market can enable you to win before they get there. Also, doing things fast does not mean sloppy. b) Simplicity: I’ve always said, “If you have a complex answer to something, odds are you are wrong”.  Keep it simple enough to explain, and so that the people who need to execute our ideas can really execute them. c) Self Confidence: As the brand leader, speak your mind. After all, we are all just walking opinions. Find a way within your leadership style to engage your team, agency or your boss in a debate to get to better answers.

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Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

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How to lead a Performance Review for Brand Leaders

The better the people, the better the work and in the end the better the results. 

As we come up on the year-end, it’s that time of year when we nervously sit down with our bosses and find out how the year went. For most of us, it’s one of the most dreaded parts of the job, for both those delivering and receiving the news. But helping to grow our people is one of the most essential parts of the Leader. No matter how good your strategy or product is, without the greatness of your people you’ll never achieve the results you want. We all have gaps and we should all be working on closing those gaps. Performance Feedback is an essential role in the growth of our people. But without pointing those gaps out and coming up with a plan, then the person will never really improve.

A challenge to you: if there are any surprises during the meeting, then you as a leader are not doing your job. As the head of Marketing at Johnson and Johnson, I had one-on-one quarterly performance check ins with all my direct reports. And when I realized that my directs weren’t following my lead, I made the Quarterly Review process mandatory for everyone on the marketing team. It’s my belief that marketers can grow faster than we think–but they can only grow with timely feedback. Those quarterly meetings were honest and informal discussions–which made the year-end review very easy.  I also emailed out the written review document 48 hours ahead of time, giving people the chance to digest all the thoughts and to come prepared ready to discuss each point.

As a Marketing Leadership Team, we spent our greatest efforts around managing the people. We talked people performance in every one of our weekly meetings. The directors were encouraged to bring up people examples of those who were shining and those who were struggling. If one of the other leaders were not familiar with those that were shining, we’d set up a process or special project where they could become more aware. We ranked everyone on the team once a year plus a mid-year check in on the rankings.  You have to be diligent in managing your team.

Skills, Behaviours and Experiences

Marketing Skills: Brand Leaders should be measured on the Core Marketing Skills. Below, I’ve outlined a Checklist of 30 Core Skills for a Brand Leader that can be used to highlight potential gaps that some of our Brand Leaders may have.  These 30 core skills fall under the areas of:

  • Analytics
  • Brand Planning
  • Briefs
  • Advertising
  • New Products & Claims
  • Go-To-Market
  • Leadership
  • Management

You can use this checklist in a few different ways: 1) to see if someone is meeting the needs of the current job–it could be used to set someone up for a performance improvement plan or as a motivation to push themselves 2) for someone who is close to ready for promotion, but you want to close on a few specific areas before the promotion or 3) for your personal assessment to see what you want to work on.

The rating should compare against their peers. It helps to highlight skill gaps where people should focus their attention. Any scores in the 1 or 2 are concerning and need an action plan. The gap could arise because it’s outside of their natural skills or it could just be because it’s been outside of their experience they’ve had. It’s tough to be good at advertising until  you’ve worked on a brand with advertising.

Leadership Skills: Below, I’ve outlined a Checklist of 12 Leader Behaviours of Brand Leaders that can be used to highlight potential gaps that some of our Brand Leaders may have. These 12 leader behaviours fall under the areas of:

  • Accountability to Results
  • People Leadership
  • Strategic Thinker
  • Broad Influence
  • Authentic Style

In the Leader Behaviour space, we all have blind sides that we just can’t see. This is where the 360 degree feedback can help people to see how they are showing up. I know that as a Director, I was a Driver-Driver that caused me to have behaviour gaps around Influence and Style. I had the attitude of “it’s my way or the highway” and I wasn’t getting what I needed from the strategy and accountability I was hoping for. Once I was able to identify it and work on it, I was able to see a big improvement in my performance and the results started to pay off as well.   Without closing that gap when I was a director, I would not have been promoted and would have honestly been unable to lead the entire marketing team.

Experience:  Many of our gaps as Brand Leaders comes from not having the experience. When managing others, expect quite a few mistakes in the first few and you might not get fully there until your 5th direct report. When sitting in the hot seat of advertising, you’ll start to realize just how complex it can be–you’ve got to stay on brief, keep the creative team motivated, make judgement calls at every stage of the process and keep your own management on side.  And at every level, you’ll start to notice that the pressure gets higher–whether it’s push for results, the ambiguity or meeting deadlines through your team.  Each of these takes experience.

With  your best people, make sure you identify the experience gaps they have and be fair to them with the next assignment. It’s far too easy to keep relying on a person’s strengths but it’s more important that you round out that person’s experience. If they advance too far without covering off those gaps, they may find themselves struggling later in the job. I’ve known newly promoted directors who had very little advertising experience coming up that all of a sudden found themselves on a desk with lots of advertising. Their team even had more experience than they did.  Regular people reviews can really help identify the experience gaps that people might have. 

To read about the four levels of the Marketing Team, read the following document that can help you manage your people’s careers based on where they are:

And for any learnings for your teams on specific skills, I’ve created 14 Learning Sessions for Brand Leaders that can help your team to get better.  Most of these sessions can be done in full day sessions with people applying the skills immediately on their businesses.  It’s worth the investment and will be a highly motivating experience for your teams.  To read about all the marketing roles:  1) Assistant Brand Manager 2) Brand Manager 3)  Marketing Director and 4) VP Marketing

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Write a better Positioning Statement by going to war with your consumer’s enemy

The most beloved brands are based on an idea that is worth loving. 

It is the idea that connects the Brand with consumers. Consumers connect to ideas more than just facts about your product. And under the Brand Idea are 5 sources of connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including the brand promise, the strategic choices you make, the brand’s ability to tell their story, the freshness of the product or service and the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you. Everyone wants to debate what makes a great brand–whether it’s the product, the advertising, the experience or through consumers. It is not just one or the other–it’s the collective connection of all these things that make a brand beloved.

The best Brand Ideas start with the conquering of the Enemy of your Consumers

As people start writing positioning statements, they normally start off with some feature oriented things they do better than others. And it normally just sounds like a category feature that everyone basically does.  It’s like saying a car drives. You end up with boring, undifferentiated, features that you’ve said for years.  Consumers don’t care about what you do until you begin caring about consumers need.  

And when Brand Leaders feel stuck I like to ask them: “who is your consumer’s enemy?”  Once you answer that, you’ll see the ideas get richer. Use the attack of the enemy to generate a bigger idea which then acts as a focal point to set up your brand promise. You will start to notice that the answers get better because you are connecting with your consumer because it helps solve something in their lives.  You are now in the consumers shoes. 

Here’s a few examples of how it might work:

  • Apple: The enemy of most people who have ever turned on a computer is Frustration. Nothing ever seems to work and we end up overwhelmed and feeling incompetent. Along comes Apple who attacks Frustration by making everything so simple. Everything Apple does is about simplicity, not about technology. Apple makes me feel smarter. Apple makes it easy for anyone to download songs, edit photos or even just start using their computer on day 1, right out of the box. Taking that one step further, Apple’s brand promise is “we make it easier to love technology, so that you can experience the future.”  
  • Starbucks: Back in the 70’s, people loved taking a moment early in the morning to sit with their coffee and morning newspaper.  Folgers made millions on the tagline “The Best Part of Waking Up is Folger’s in Your Cup”. Fast forward one generation and the new enemy is the insane hectic lives that we all live. We rush to get the kids off to school, rush to work, rush to grab a sandwich and work through lunch so we rush to every kid event that night and then slither into bed at 11:15 pm. Starbucks attacks that hectic life with and the big idea becomes a bit of “me time”. Starbucks has created a bit of an escape with a euro-flare, people who know your name, a drink customized to your own desires, a few indulgent treats and a nice leather chair to sit with your best friend.  The Starbucks brand promise is “we give you a moment in your day where you can just escape and spoil yourself” 
  • Special K: For all of us who have gained a few pounds over the years, we keep going on diets and failing over again. It’s just too difficult for us to make such a life style change. Diets are just too hard. And we are left wearing our “fat pants”. The enemy is not being able to squeeze into your favorite pair of jeans anymore. Special K came along and created the 2-week challenge to attack the enemy,  offering the easiest diet that anyone can do. Just replace two meals a day with Special K and you’ll be able to lose weight. It’s that easy. The brand promise is “With the Special K Challenge, it’s a diet so easy that anyone can drop a Jean size in two weeks.” 
So who is your Consumer’s Enemy? And how do you turn the attack on that enemy into a Brand Idea?  

Here’s a presentation on what makes a Beloved Brand:


To read and Article on How Brand Love creates Brand Power, follow this link: Brand Love


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