Tag Archive: brand manager

8 Interview Questions I used to ask potential Marketing Hires

facebook adOn average, you’ll need 4-5 interviews to land the job–likely one with HR, a couple at the manager level and a couple at the director level.  If it’s part of the formal recruiting process, then you need to realize you are being judged at every moment, from the on-campus event to the potential dinner/lunch during the interviews and even how you act between interviews.  If they give you a mentor to help you, that person will also have influence.  In our debrief about candidates, there were just as many comments about things beyond the interviews as there was the interviews themselves.

Many interviews are moving to behavioural style where they might say: “tell me a time when you had a conflict…”  This means you need to translate all your strengths and weaknesses into stories that show you have experience in the given area.  Write down your answers in the form of Situation Action and Result. Learn how to tell the stories so that it answers the question and showcases your strengths.  Even if people don’t ask you the “tell me a time…” questions, it can be powerful for you to answer in that method.

You will still get asked “what’s your weakness?”.  It’s such a cliche question now, but it still gets asked.  I once had a candidate tell me they hated ambiguity, which was pretty much the death-nail.  Avoid the BS style “I’m too hard on myself” or “I work too hard”.  You just sound annoying.  The safest option I would recommend is “I’m not very good at negotiating” which is a skill that’s not really that important for marketing.

Here are the Interview Questions that I used to Ask:

  1. Tell me a time you used numbers to sell an idea? Most marketers suck at finance and it will eventually limit your career. At some level in marketing, you have to be good at running the P&L, so I’d rather find out now. You better have your story tight because your answer will be questioned one or two more levels to see if you really know your stuff.  Great Marketers can tell stories with analysis.  I’m going to challenge every aspect of your story.  
  2. What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done?  It really doesn’t matter what it was, but how far did you push yourself out of your comfort zone to find the creative solution.Your passion for your idea should come through.    
  3. What’s the thing you’re most proud of?  When I read a resume, I want to see big accomplishments beyond your work experience or school.  Football, chess, travelling the world or charity work etc.  I want to hear your story and your pride come through. Great Marketers accomplish things, and I want to know that you have a history of accomplishments.  Don’t tell just what you did, tell me what you ACCOMPLISHED!  
  4. Tell me a time when you’ve convinced your boss of something they thought wouldn’t work. I want to see if you can make it happen.  This will show your leadership, selling skills, and willingness to push.  A great Marketer can get what they want.. 
  5. If you were the agent of Miley Cyrus, how would you maximize her value over the next 10 years?  I always took something in the pop culture news and asked how you would handle it. I was looking to see how curious you are and how you could take something with very little subject matter expertise and put together a plan. A great Marketer has a curiosity and can form opinions quickly. This lets me see your thinking.  Pop culture is a great area that goes beyond books.   
  6. If you were on a team that solved a serious healthcare problem for Society, what factors would you use to price it on the global level?   This is a very thick question with many issues, especially adding in the global issue. I want to see you think through those issues and layer those issues into your answer. How do you handle the differences between North America and the Third World? How important is profitability vs R&D vs compassion?   How would you leverage government, key influencers and where would that fit into your answer. Great marketers can handle ambiguity and there is a lot within this case.  
  7. From your previous Interview with our company, what’s the biggest mistake you made and how would you now change that? Great marketers are constantly pushing themselves to improve.  That starts with your own personal assessment. I want to see that you have thought about it and now see a better solution. It also puts you under a bit of unexpected pressure to see how you handle that.  
  8. What questions do you have for me? To me this is one of the most important sections. It demonstrates how engaged you are in the process. The quality of your questions will help to separate you. Have five great questions done ahead of time, ask about 2-3 each interview. Ask deep questions, not surface questions.Turn each answer into a conversation starter. 

Act like you want the job. Show a bit of spunk and energy through the interviews. Marketing jobs are a bit different.  Take a Red Bull before the interview.  Be leaning forward, make eye contact, be comfortable and dynamic in your personality. Marketing jobs require a bit of charm, a big push, and a willingness to get things done no matter what. I want to see all those things in the interview. 

If you bomb a few interviews, keep going for it.  There are more people who want to be an Assistant Brand Manager than there are jobs. And that’s continuing to tighten in the tough economy as many places are going without. So how bad do you really want this job?   Do you want it more than everyone else? And will you do what it takes to get that job.  I remember interviewing so many times and not getting the job–I must have gone through 100 interviews before I finally landed the right job.  I remember one time, after 3 minutes the hiring manager looked at my resume and said “you have zero marketing experience, this won’t work”.  That one still stings after twenty years, but made me want it even more.  Persistence has to be the key. If you are only half trying, then I have very little sympathy. If you are completely immersed in the effort, trust me, you will eventually break through.

Best of luck to you, and go for it.  

 

Here’s a presentation on Successful Marketing Careers:  

 

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The 10 Reasons Brand Managers get fired


facebook adThere’s been a lot of great Assistant Brand Managers who get promoted and then are fired at the Brand Manager level. So that would beg the question: why were they mistakenly promoted? Just like in sports where they are fooled by size, we sometimes get fooled by Charisma. They seem impressive to us–whether it’s how they speak in the hallways or answer questions in a plans meeting. We think Charisma is a great starting ground for a leader, so hopefully they can learn to be analytical, strategic, creative and organized. Hopefully that Charismatic leader can get stuff done, stay on track, hand in their budgets on time, know how to turn a brand around, can write great brand plans, work with agencies and motivate the sales team etc…etc… But then we find out that they can’t do all that stuff. And after 18 months as a Brand Manager, we see they really are “just charismatic” and we remind ourselves of what we already knew: Being a Brand Manager really is hard.

Brand Managers don’t really get fired because they can’t deliver the results. That might happen at Director or VP level. But at the Brand Manager level, we’d look for other Blind Spots that might be leading to the poor results.

I don’t want to see anyone get fired, so use this list to avoid it. I’ve provided advice for each reason, hopefully helping you to discuss it pro-actively.

Top 10 Reasons why Brand Managers get fired:

  1. Struggle to Make Decisions: When these Brand Managers were ABMs they shined because they are the “super doer’s”, who can work the system, get things done on time and under budget. All the subject matter experts (forecasting, production, promotions) love them. But then get them into the Brand Manager seat and they freeze. They can do, but they can’t decide. They can easily execute someone else’s project list with flare, but they can’t come up with a project list of their own. For you to succeed, you have to work better on your decision-making process. You have to find methods for narrowing down the decisions. When you’re new to decisions, take the time to map out your thinking whether it’s pros and cons or a decision tree. It will eventually get faster for you and train your mind to make decisions.
  2. Not Analytical Enough: Those that can’t do the deep dive analytical thinking. They might have great instincts, but they only scratch the surface on the analytics, and it eventually catches them when they make a poor decision and they can’t explain why they went against the obvious data points. The real reason is they never saw those data points. When a senior leader questions you, they can usually tell if they have struggled enough with a problem to get to the rich solution or whether they just did the adequate thinking to get to an “ok” solution. Just because you are now a Brand Manager doesn’t mean you stop digging into the data. The analytical skills you learned as an ABM should be used at every level in your career right up to VP. As I moved up, I felt out of touch with the data so at every level up to VP, I used to do my own monthly share report just to ensure I was digging in and getting my hands mucky with the data. Because I had dug around in the data, I knew which of my Brand Managers had dug in as well and which Brand Managers hadn’t even read their ABM’s monthly report yet. Take the time to know the details of your business. Dig into the data and make decisions based on the depth of analysis you do. 
  3. Can’t Get Along: Conflicts, teamwork issues, communication. These Brand Managers struggle with sales colleagues or the subject matter experts (SME’s). They might be the type who speaks first, listens second. They go head-to-head to get their own way instead of looking for compromise. Yes, they might be so smart they think faster than everyone, but they forget to bring people along with their thinking. They start to leave a trail of those they burned and when the trail gets too big they get labelled as “tough to deal with”. Listen more–hear them out. The collection of SME’s will likely teach you more about marketing than your boss will. If you don’t use these people to enhance your skill, you’ll eventually crash and burn. And if they can’t work with you, they’ll also be the first to destroy your career. You aren’t the first superstar they’ve seen. And likely not the last. My recommendation to you is to remember that Leadership is not just about you being out front, but about you turning around and actually seeing people following you. In fact, it should be called “Follower-ship”.
  4. Not good with Ambiguity: Some Brand Managers opt for the safety of the easy and well-known answers. They struggle with the unknown and get scared of ambiguity. Brand Managers that become too predictable to their team create work in the market that also becomes predictable and fails to drive the brand. These Brand Managers are OK–they don’t really have a lot of wrong, but they don’t have a lot of right. You can put them on safe easy businesses, but you wouldn’t put them on the turn around or new products. Ambiguity is a type of pressure that not all of us are capable of handling easily, especially when they see Ambiguity and Time Pressure working against each other. Don’t ever settle for “ok” just because of a deadline. Always push for great. You have to learn to handle ambiguity. In fact revel in ambiguity. Have fun with it. Be Patient with Ideas. Never be afraid of an idea and never kill it quickly. As a leader, find ways to ask great questions instead of giving quick answers. Watch the signals you send that may suck the creativity energy out of your team. When you find a way to stay comfortable in the “ambiguity zone”, the ideas get better whether it’s the time pressure that forces the thinking to be simpler or whether it’s the performance pressure forces us to push for the best idea. So my recommendation to you is to just hold your breath sometimes and see if the work gets better.
  5. Too slow and stiff: The type of Brand Manager that is methodical to the extreme and they think everything through to the point of “Analysis Paralysis”.
    They never use instincts–and have the counter analytical answer to every “gut feel” solution that gets recommended. They have every reason why something won’t work but no answers for what will work. I have to admit that this type frustrates me to no end, because nothing ever gets done. They struggle to make it happen: they are indecisive, not productive, disorganized or can’t work through others. They are frustratingly slow for others to deal with. They keep missing opportunities or small milestones that causes the team to look slow and miss the deadlines. You have to start to show more flexibility in your approach. Borrow some of the thinking from dealing with ambiguity and making decisions. Realize there are options for every solution, no one perfect answer. 
  6. Bad people Manager: Most first time people managers screw up a few of their first 5 direct reports. It’s only natural. One of the biggest flaws for new Managers is to think “Hey it will take me longer to explain it to you, so why don’t I just do it myself this one time and you can do it next time”. They repeat this every month until we realized they aren’t teaching their ABM anything. And they became the Manager that none of the ABMs wanted to work for because you never learn anything. But as we keep watching great ABMs crashing and burning while under them, we start to wonder “you are really smart, but can you actually manage people?”. To be a great Brand Manager, you have to work on being a better people leader. We expect you to develop talent. Be more patient with your ABM. Become a teacher. Be more selfless in your approach to coaching. Take time to give them feedback that helps them, not feedback that helps you. If you don’t become a better people manager, you’ve just hit your peak in your career.
  7. Poor communicators, with manager, senior management or partners. They fail to adequately warn when there are potential problems. They leave their manager in the dark and the information comes their manager from someone else. They confuse partners because they don’t keep them aware of what’s going on. You have to become a better communicator. Make it a habit that as soon as you know something, your boss does as well–especially with negative news. It’s normal that we get fixated on solving the problem at hand that we forget to tell people. But that opens you up to risk–so cover your bases. 
  8. Never Follow Their Instincts: They forget that marketing also has a “Gut Feel” to it, taking all the data, making decisions and then getting to the execution and believing it by taking a risk. Too many times people fail because “they went along with it even though they didn’t like it”. You have to find ways to use your instincts. 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 your career and you 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”. At every touch point, keep reaching for those instincts and bring them out on the table.
  9. Can’t Think Strategically or Write Strategically: As you move up to Brand Manager, we expect you to be able to think conceptually, strategically and in an organized fashion. We also expect that to come through in your writing–whether that’s your Annual Brand Plan, monthly share report or just an email that you send. Be organized in your thinking–map it out. I do believe that every good strategy has four key elements: 1) Focus in either target or messaging 2) an Early win where you can see results 3) a Leverage point where you can take that early win and achieve a position power for your brand and finally 4) a Gateway to something even bigger for the brand. 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” 
  10. They Don’t Run the Brand, they Let The Brand Run Them. Some Brand Managers end up in the spin zone where they are disorganized, frantic and not in touch with their business. They miss deadlines, look out of control and things just stockpile on one another. They may take pride in how long they work or how many things they are getting done on their to-do list. But they are out of control and the business is absolutely killing them. They just don’t know it yet. My advice to you is to stay in Control so you hit the deadlines and stay on budget. Dig in and know your business so you don’t get caught off-guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge. Instil processes that organize and enable you and your team, so that it frees you up your time to push projects through and for doing the needed strategic thinking. Stay conceptual–avoid getting stuck in the pennies or decimals–so you can continue to drive the strategy of your brand.

Now let’s be honest: You likely won’t be fired for just one of these. You likely will see 3 or 4 of these come together and begin to showcase that you’re just not up for being a Brand Manager. But even 1 or 2 will keep you stuck at the Brand Manager level and you’ll notice your bosses are hesitant to put you on the tough assignments.

But the big question is what do you do about it. My hope is that you can use the list as a way to course correct on something you might already be doing. We each have a few of these de-railers, some that you can easily over-come but others that will take a few years to really fix. Those who seek out feedback, welcome it and act on it will be the successful ones. I hope that your company has a process of giving feedback or that you get lucky to have a manager that cares about your career and is willing to give you the tough feedback. But if not, seek it. Be honest with yourself and try to fix one of these per quarter.

I hope you can figure out the blind spots before your manager does.

To read a presentation on careers:

 

Articles on the Four Levels of Marketing

  • 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
  • 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

 

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P&G has become really good at Emotional Advertising

6mkd49.pngIn my generation, it was usually pretty easy to spot a P&G marketer. They are the type that has “the” answer. The “P&G way” used to be: find something (almost anything) that you’re better at than your competitor and then make the most of it, by showing a side-by-side demonstration, naming the “next leading brand” and quite possibly add some blue liquid to the TV ad.  P&G managed to exploit this execution through most of the 1970s and 1980s.  Don’t get me wrong: I’ve always respected P&G for what it is. They did a good job for decades using that same trusted formula.  They just stuck to the same formula a bit too long, and it caught up to them by the mid-to-late 1990s.

 

Here’s a great example of the classic 1970s P&G advertising looked like, including the famous blue liquid.

 

But by 2000, the P&G formula seemed worn out they suddenly appeared to hit a brick wall. Growth dried up, several key brands lost their leadership of the market to rivals, and new product launches proved disappointing or even to be downright failures. Competitor products had caught up, and in some cases surpassed them. Colgate was beating Crest, Listerine was beating Scope, Finish was beating Cascade, Dove was beating Ivory and others were catching up or passing the trusted P&G brands., the stock price fell dramatically from $120 to $85 almost over night. A consumer driven brand mainly has 3 weapons: 1) new products 2) communication and 3) go-to-market execution through retailers. P&G stepped up on innovation and even acquisition to bolster the product roster.  And they have made a dramatic change in how they communicate with their consumers,. They also found that the same Advertising formula wasn’t working anymore.

Strategically, brands really have four choices:  

  • Better
  • Different
  • Cheaper
  • Not around for very long

But in the current crowded Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) world, “Better” has become increasingly difficult. Every category is so cluttered, everyone has copied every non-patented product feature, claims are getting even harder to gain separation from competitors.  We are into the world of incremental-ization of fast acting tabs, quick dissolving strips or ultra powders.  Yawn. More and more, what is winning is different.  The brand that taught all of the CPG marketers a vital lesson is Dove, with “real beauty” demonstrating that different is a powerful way to connect.  

At the base of P&G’s communication is the strategic shift from always being “better” to now being “different”. Instead of looking at unique feature differences to build the benefits around, P&G is now looking at unique consumer insights that will help them connect with consumers. The ads have shifted from pure product demos to finding moments within the consumer’s life. Also, P&G has a new respect for the power of Advertising–even sending people to the Cannes awards.  Yes, Unilever has been doing this type of work across their brands for decades now, with the most inspiring CPG brand being the work on Dove.  

 

Here’s a few P&G spots that have really captured the emotional marketing.

I thought P&G did a very nice job at the 2012 Olympics, the one sponsor that seemed to jump out. “Thank You Moms” showed everything that moms did for their athletes, and just as Mom is an enabler, so is P&G to the Moms. I’m sure quite a few moms were shedding a few tears over this one.

 

 

The second P&G ad spoke to the idea that “they’ll always be kids” and it showed the athletes depicted as little children.

 

 

With Old Spice, it was a dead brand.  It was so old that P&G had liberty to completely re-invent the brand.  And this campaign just jumped off the screen a few years ago.  (it’s a bit worn out now)

 

To me the symbolic P&G unemotional brands that P&G has is Tide and if you watch this Ad for “stay at home dads” you would never know it’s a cold brand.

Some good lessons for other brands to learn.

  • Focus on different where you can’t win on better.
  • Instead of product features, move to consumer insights
  • Story telling and Moments connect more with your consumers than claims and demos.  

You’re doing a Great job P&G connecting with consumers. Now it’s time for your competitors to catch up.  

Here’s an article that goes a little deeper on the ABC’S: How to Judge Advertising Copy: Approve the Good. Reject the Bad.

To see a training presentation on Get Better Advertising:

 

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This is the Idiot Curve!!!

In every job I’ve ever been in, no matter what level, or what company, I rode the IDIOT CURVE.  The idiot curve lasts about 90 days, coincidental to what most companies call probation period.  The basic rule of the Idiot Curve is: You get dumber before you get smarter. 

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During the idiot curve, the first thing to go is your instincts. Your brain is only so big, that all the new facts you learn, that when pressed, you reach for one of these new facts instead of using your instincts.  The second thing to go is your ability to make decisions.  New jobs are always stressful–trying to impress your boss, trying to maintain composure with ambiguity, and trying to deliver when you aren’t sure how to do that yet.  Most of us think that stress impacts execution first.  But really it impacts decision-making–you might find yourself frozen like a dear in the headlights or you might make choices you think you are supposed to make instead of  taking the time to think things through.  The third thing to go is your natural strengths. Everyone has natural strengths and natural weaknesses. But in these early days, you spend too much time, covering up the weaknesses, that you don’t allow your strengths to fully show.  

The Idiot Curve keeps showing up whether you’re a new ABM, Brand Manager, Director or a VP.  The challenge for your is to learn as much as you can, and ensure your curve only lasts 90 days.  

New Assistant Brand Manager:

When you first land an Assistant Brand Manager (ABM) job in marketing, 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 Assistant Brand Managers doing the things you are struggling with, it’s even more intimidating.  But the idiot curve is inevitable. No matter how smart you are, how much you try to fight the idiot curve, it’s there.  It shows up differently for each person.  So my advice is instead of trying to fight it, I recommend you just ride the curve.  In the end, the ABM job is a stepping stone to Brand Manager. Many painful days, with constant bumps and bruises as you learn and as you strive for getting promoted.  So what separates the ok ABM from the great ABM that gets promoted?  There are two factors that I have seen in a consistent manner:  #1: They get what they need and #2:  What they need is the right thing to do.   Very simply put, great ABMs get both.   The rest either fail on #1 or #2.    A great ABM is able to tell stories, where others just see data.  The great ones take action and moves before being asked. Even in a busy job as a do-er, the best ABMs find a way to put their strategic thoughts forward.  A great ABM is accountable in the ownership of their work–they have to be, because the Brand Manager has to be an owner and if we can’t see you own your work, how can we see you own your brand.  

New Brand Manager:

In the first few months as a Brand Manager, they keep doing the ABM role because that’s what they know and what they are comfortable doing. They keep recommending and acting small rather than start deciding and stepping up to the leadership role.  If they have a direct report, they will frustrate the hell out of their ABM by doing the stuff the ABM should do. Don’t tell your ABM this dirty secret, but most managers suck at their first five direct reports.  Now don’t use this as excuse, but the only way you’ll be good at #6 is if you learn from the first five.  I remember a new Brand Manager telling me this his role was to get his ABM promoted, and he would do everything to make sure that happens.  I said “what if your ABM can’t do the job, and we have to let them go?”  Yes, it’s honorable to do that, but not always realistic.  Once you start to show ownership, you’ll be able to get out of the idiot curve. You Run the Brand, Don’t Let the Brand Run You: Be thoroughly organized, well planned and know the pulse of your business.  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. Know Your Business and don’t get caught off-guard.  Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.  What separates many Brand Managers is the inability and even refusal of some Brand Managers to actually rely on their instincts, instead of just the textbook answer.   It’s not easy to sit there without the answer, but sometimes if you just wait a bit longer and keep pushing for an even better answer, it will come to you.  My challenge to you: Revel in ambiguity. Enjoy the uncertainty and find the answers to the unknown.  A great BM takes ownership of the brand.  The best ones provide the vision and the strategies to match up to that vision. The great BMs learn how to be a people manager and they spend the effort to make their ABM as good as can be.  The best Brand Managers learn to show composure in the face of pressure–the pressure to deliver results, hit deadlines, face ambiguity and build relationships.    

New Director

At the Director role, just like they had a hard time 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.  But this is the first role where being a leader is more important than being a do-er.  Ensure a policy of open communication with no surprises:  Make sure you keep your team informed and involved.  Keep senior management informed. You are the champion of the team.  The best ideas are those that erupt out from the brand team–not from a top down perspective.  All the best work I was part of, met a large degree of resistance.  You have to expect this and work through it. It will now be your role to make sure the great ideas happen, and that no one beyond you sees the bad ideas. Once you get past the first 90 days, you have to begin focusing on creating a consistency for your team.  You are the leader and they have to understand you. You have to hold them to a consistent hight standard of work. You need to be consistent in how you think.  You need to be consistent and even predictable in how you show up to your people.  No mood swings.  No changing your mind constantly, which just creates spin.  You need to be the decision maker on stuff, or nothing gets done.  At this level, you need to show up consistently to the sales team so they can rely on you as a partner.

New VP

First time at the executive level is difficult. At the VP level,the first few months are lonely as you no longer have peers you can bounce ideas off. Your former peers will treat you differently, almost at arms lengths.  Some may even be mad you got the job.  But most, now assume their career rests in your hands, and they will treat you as the boss. They aren’t your friends anymore.  Sorry.  Your new peers assume you can do the job, and they don`t want to hear your problems.  I remember being a new VP, and having a “people issue” on my team, and I was sitting with my sales peer.  I thought this was a great bonding opportunity to ask for help and advice from my new peer.  He said “we all have problems, good luck on that one”.   While your people run the brands and the execution, you should run the P&L and essentially run all the marketing processes.  I do have a believe that if you focus on the People and the Results will come.  You should be spending 50% of your time on people.  The counter to this believe is bad people will hold you back.  You can’t do their job, nor compensate for their weaknesses.  You either make them better or move them out.  You don’t do anything anymore. At all.  Let your people do it, let them own it and let them shine.  Not only do you not do anything, you also don’t really know anything.  You should be the dumbest person in every meeting–well, the least knowledgeable.  Not knowing the details is actually a power–because you can use your instincts more.  And instead of having your head filled with great ANSWERS, it should be filled with great QUESTIONS,  If you think you are a powerful leader because you dictate every move on the team, just wait till you shift towards the power that comes from asking questions.  

Tips to make the Idiot curve a little easier  

  1. Say “I’m new” A LOT!!!!   And let your guard down and say “I have never done this before, so if you could help me out that would be great” to as many people as you can.  It’s my experience that people are willing to help those who let their guard down a little.  Just not the same person every day, or that one person will think you are the biggest idiot ever.  In other words, spread out your stupidity with a little for everyone around you.  
  2. Respect subject matter experts.  The oddest thing about marketing is you have to get people with way more knowledge and experience to follow you.  Not an easy balance.  But realize, they see so many marketers come and go.  Marketers don’t really do anything, but they do get to make decisions on almost everything.  When a marketer tells a subject matter expert what to do, they weaken themselves.  Be realistic:  you don’t know any thing and yet you just ignored the one person that does.  Ask them what you should do.  It doesn’t take away your decision-making power.  They’ll be more motivated to help you.  
  3. Keep reaching for your instincts.  Take your time.  Even take a breath.  Think back to what you would say if you were thinking clearly, free from all that new information that is cluttering your brain. 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”.
  4. Questions are a source of power.  When you’re new to marketing, ask “how do i do this?”.  When you’re a Leader, ask your experts “what do you think we should do?”   And at the executive level, steer the team by being the one that challenges with well thought strategic questions that make your team think, push for their instincts and make good decisions.  
  5. Make sure your idiot curve ONLY lasts 90 days.  The more you push yourself to learn as much as you can in that short 90 day window, allows you to be able to do the job at the end of the 90 days.  As you look at the curve again, you have to be as smart at day 90 as you were at day 1. If you are three years into a job and saying “how do i do this?”, it won’t be pretty.  Trust me, I’ve managed some, worked along side others and even worked for a few whose idiot curve seemed to last for years. Eventually, it caught up to them.  

 

 Don’t fight the Idiot Curve. We all face it. Ride it. Learn from it. And go beyond It.  

To read a presentation on careers:

Articles on the Four Levels of Marketing
  • 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
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How to deal with the STRESS of being a Brand Leader

1602788784_1393529605When I was in University trying to figure out my career, my mom said “what about an actuary?”   What a great career:  you make a good living and you have the longest life expectancy of any career.  The life expectancy is directly related to the lack of stress.  Instead I chose Marketing, where the jobs are highly stressful.  Plain and simple.  I spent 20 years in marketing, and no matter what the level, whether as a new Assistant Brand Manager or a VP with 20 years of experience, I found it highly stressful job.  As an ABM, I felt constantly reminded that “not everyone gets promoted” so I worked my ass off just to get that Brand Manager job.  As you move up, through each promotion, that insecurity never goes away, but rather it pushes you extra hard.  At the VP level, you are still reminded that “most CMOs only last 36 months”. The stress never ends.  But I loved every day of my marketing career.   Even with the stress.

Here are the 6 degrees of stress that Brand Leaders face:

  • Ambiguity is one of the hardest pressures you will face. There really is no exact answer. As my Economics prof once said “economics proves what happens in real life can actually happen in theory as well”.  I love that answer because marketers drive those supply and demand curves. And similarly, we have to use a combination of fundamentals and instinct to make the right choices. As a leader, patience and composure help you sort through the issues. The consequences of not remaining composed are a scared team and choosing quick decisions with bad results. The consequence of stress is usually decision-making first.  So take your time, slow down your thinking, map out decision trees, use tools to help you support your instincts. And make a decision. Most marketers faced with A or B, try to find a way to choose both, but that just depletes your resources by spreading them against two options. 
  • If the Results don’t come in, it can be frustrating. The key to making sure you can hit your results is to make good projections. You should always be doing regular deep dive analysis to ensure you know what’s going on, and can summarize the key issues. When faced with struggling results, reach for your logic as you re-group. Force yourself to course correct, rather than continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat. Challenge team to “this is when we are needed as a motivation to dig deep and fix the business in front of you.  As the leader, if you can put a time frame on how long it might take to turn things around, it can help manage your teams stress and work load level.  (eg.  For the next 3 months, we’ll need all hands on deck as we turn around the extra strength business)  The focus helps cut the ambiguity
  • At various times in your career, relationships can cause you a lot of stress. Organizations have natural conflict points with conflicting priorities.  For most marketers, the sales team can be a stress point, as they try to close any short-term gaps while you try to drive longer term equity.  Be pro-active in making the first move to build a relationship. Try to figure out what motivates and what annoys the other person. Understand and reach for common ground, which most times is not that far away. Have regular touch points, to hear them out.  I used to have regular lunches with the key account sales directors, mainly to hear them out. I would get nothing during the lunch but a ton between the lunches. I only figured out this late in my career, after years of butting heads with sales at all stages of my career. The other conflict is with your ad agency.  They value pride in work more than they do results. If you can find that happy medium where they are motivated to do great work that drives your results, then you’ll have great advertising. Don’t treat them like a supplier you pay.  That won’t work.  You have to inspire, motivate and energize your agency.  Always tap into their pride.
  • Time Pressure is almost the opposite of ambiguity. Many marketers think being creative means you can have some weakness on being organized.  Not true.  You have to be organized, disciplined and work the system so it doesn’t get in your way.   Be calm, so you continue to make the right decisions. And you can actually use time to your advantage, if you can stay cool in the face of deadlines, you can use those time constraints to get everyone focused on the simple answers.  Time can focus your team, as long as you stay cool.  If you get stressed, everyone just freezes.
  • Managing your career:  The best marketers are ambitious and want to get ahead. CPG marketing is still an “up or out” mentality, which puts added pressure to keep moving up.  But your career changes at every stage of the marketing career, so there is a constant change on the pressure.  When you’re a junior marketer, it is all about doing–and making it happen through subject matter experts. Here’s where you also to manage your boss, to make sure they are aware of what you want. I recommend you think of your career as three different aspects:  skills, behaviours and experiences. And as you move up, you need to make sure you are well rounded in each of those.  Identify the gaps, and look to close those through your career choices.   
  • Your personal life:  During your career, there will be tons of things happen in your personal life that can trickle into your work life. Your personal life during your career will be full:  you could be getting married, buying a house and having kids. But you have to be able to compartmentalize and almost separate the personal from the professional life. But just like not taking your personal life to work, you can’t take your work life home.  It’s even harder today to compartmentalize with smart phones that never turn off. But, a career is a marathon, not a series of sprints. 

One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve. slide123At every new job, I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day. The basic rule is: You get dumber before you get smarter. We’ve promoted some great ABMs and watch them struggle and wonder if we made a mistake. 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 biggest gap is that you forget to use your instincts. You spend so much of your time trying to absorb all that is coming at you, that you reach for the basic process instead of your brains. You might be working on a project for weeks before you think to even look at the budget. You work on a promotion for Wal-Mart and then think “oh ya, I should talk to the Wal-Mart sales manager and see what he thinks”. Or you say something in a meeting you think you’re supposed to say, but it doesn’t even resemble anything that you think, feel or believe in. That’s the idiot curve. And it will last 3 months. And you’ll experience it in a new and exciting way you can’t even predict. Feel free to let me know which way so I can add it to the list. (I won’t show names)

I also found at each new level, it got lonely during the first few months.  You don’t know your new peers and it takes them a while to accept you.  Your friends, who might have been former peers treat you differently now.   

Stress will happen, but be ready for it.  The best way to deal with uncertainty is to make sure you  organized and ready to handle it.  Here are some ways to get organized and manage what is controllable:  

  • Hit the Deadlines: Don’t look out of control or sloppy. We have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other.
  • Know Your Business: Don’t get caught off-guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.
  • Open Communication: No surprises. Keep everyone aware of what’s going on. Present upwards with an action plan of what to do with it.  
  • Listen and Decide: While it’s crucial that we seek to understand, it’s equally important that we give direction or push towards the end path.
  • We must get better: When we don’t know something, speak in an “asking way”, but when we know, speak in a “telling way”.
  • We control Our Destiny: We run the brands, they do not run us. Be slightly ahead of the game, not chasing your work to completion.
  • Regular Feedback for Growth:You should always take feedback, good or bad, as a lesson for you. Not a personal attack or setback.

It’s crucial that you learn to deal with stress you move up, because the stress increases with each level.  Being unable to handle stress will eat you alive and likely limit your career.  To me, one of the best stress relievers has been the work itself.  I pushed myself to love the work.  Being satisfied helped my stress level.  Whenever I settled for OK, it ate away at me for months, regretting I settled.  

Love what you do.  Live why you do it.  

 

To read more on managing your marketing carer, read the following presentation:

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How to drive more Attention in your Brand Communication

Slide1I always use my instincts as my first gut reaction of the advertising.  When the agency shows me an ad, I don’t want any set up, don’t read the brief, don’t tell me “this is really funny”.  Unless we are prepared to buy a 30 second spot to explain our ad and put it right in front of our Ad, then we must watch the work as though we are the consumer.  But even after 20 years and hundreds of spots, I don’t rely on just my instincts.  I do the thinking time.  And the tool I usually turn to is the ABC’S.  I want to make sure we create an ad that attracts  Attention, it’s about the Brand, it Communicates the brand story and Sticks in the consumers mind.   

  • Attention:  You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising.  Consumers see 6000 ads per day, and will likely only engage in a few.  If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
  • Branding:  Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best.  Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumers view of the brand.  It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits to the climax of the ad.
  • Communication:  Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
  • Stickiness:  Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time.   In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own.  Brands have exist in the minds of the consumer. 
How to Drive more Attention

Buying media and putting something on air does not attract attention for your ad.  All those testing or tracking results start with Attention for a reason, your Brand Link scores are a ratio of those that the ad captured.  Driving more branding of a poorly engaging ad doesn’t really do much.  

You have to EARN the consumers’ attention.  Most of the media options still, are passive mediums where the consumer is more engaged in the content, and the advertising needs to be interruptive.  No consumer has ever said “what are you doing tonight Bill?”.   “Well Bob, I’m going home, grab a bite to eat and watch some TV ads”.  The best way to grab Attention is to take a risk and do something not done before. Here are the best ways to attract attention.

  1. Be Incongruent:  This is a great technique to get noticed is by being a bit off kilter or different from what they are watching.  A lot of brand leaders are afraid of this, because they feel it exposes them.  Avoid being like “wallpaper”   If you want a high score on “made the brand seem different”, it starts with acting different.   
  2. Resonate:  Connect with the consumer in the true way that they see themselves or their truth about how they interact with the brand.
  3. Entertain them:  Strike the consumers emotional cord, by making them laugh, make them cry, or make them tingle.  From the consumers view—they interact with media to be entertained—so entertain them.
  4. The Evolution of the Art of Being Different:  As much as Movies,  TV music continues to evolve, so do ads. As much as your art has to express your strategy, it needs to reflect the trends of society to capture their attention.  Albino fruit flies mate at twice the rate of normal fruit flies.  Be an albino fruit fly!!!
  5. Location Based:  Be where Your consumers are open and willing to listen.  The Media choice really does impact attention.  Make sure your creative makes the most of that media choice.  
  6. Be Part of the Content:  As much as consumers are engaged in the content, not the advertising, then having your brand front and center and part of the story can be a great vehicle for driving attention. Watching a movie and seeing them using a Mac makes the product seem cool, or driving a red Mini Cooper in the Italian Job made me want that car.  Or creating content on line that engages like Toyota’s Swagger Wagon or the brilliant BMW Films site from 10 years ago.   
  7. Be Sharable:  We are seeing so many amazing story-telling ads getting passed around on social media vehicles.  Most are designed for that very reason, many of them 2-3 minutes in length.  These long videos are great for engaging the consumer emotionally.  

This Dodge Ram “Farmer” ad is a great use of being incongruent.  This extremely quiet spot, was aired during the Super Bowl, when all the other ads are loud, slapstick style ads.  The use of photography only, the great voice of Paul Harvey with “so god made a Farmer” gives you shivers.  

 

 

Budweiser’s Wazzup ad was so different that it jumped off the TV screen.  The language was authentic, connecting with how guys tend to talk to each other, when no one else is around. 

 

 

Lynx ads are so entertaining they become content you want to watch.  This spot from the mid 90s with Jennifer Anniston is hilarious.  

 

 

 

Toyota’s Swagger Wagon videos have been shared by millions, highly entertaining but extremely insight driven of how former “cool people” turn into parents and their motivations change.  

 

 

To this day, there has still never been an on-line idea as powerful as BMW Films for creating on-line content.  What BMW did was give famous directors $1 Million each to make short “films” that make the BMW car the center point of the spots.   These are highly engaging, shareable videos.  These were 10 years ago now, and I keep hoping someone beats these one day.   Here’s Guy Ritchie’s version, with his good friend Clive Owen and wife Madonna.  

 

 

 

You have to earn their Attention, before telling them the rest of your story.  

 

Here’s an article that goes a little deeper on the ABC’S:  How to Judge Advertising Copy: Approve the Good. Reject the Bad.

 

To see a training presentation on Get Better Advertising: 

 

If you are in the mood to see stories on great advertising, here’s a few other stories:

 

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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. 

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

 

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Six Habits of Great Brand Leaders

facebook adHaving spent 20 years in the CPG world of marketing, I’ve seen almost a thousand Brand Leaders over the years.  On the way up, I tried to emulate what I thought were the best traits and avoid what I saw as weaknesses.  And at the senior level of marketing, I hired tons of Brand Leaders, promoted many and even had to fire a few along the way.  I’ve been a Brand Coach the past few years, working closely with Brand Leaders.  And I consistently see these six habits at any level, that separate those that are GREAT from those that are just GOOD.

Habit #1:  GREAT Brand Leaders push for focused choices, using the word “or” and rarely using the word “and”.  

Everyone says they are good decision makers, but very few are.  If you present an either-or situation to most brand leaders, they struggle with the decision, so they say “let’s do a little of both”.  But in reality, what separates out a great brand leader from the pack, is great brand leaders know that decision-making starts with the choices where you have to pick one, not both. At the core of business, Brands only exist to drive more profit than if we just sold the product itself.  It’s all about ROI (Return on Investment).  Forget the mathematical equation, ROI just means you get more out of it than you put into it.  Every brand is constrained by money, people, speed and ideas.  It becomes all about focus, leverage and finding that gateway point where you realize more from what you do, it than what you put into it.

FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS!!!

  1. To be GREAT, you need to focus on a tight consumer target to make sure you can get them to do what you hope and love you for it.  A new way to think is to find those consumers that are already  highly motivated to buy what you have to sell and get them aboutus_roi_70812766-300x228to love you, rather than targeting everyone and get them to like you.  Look at how marketing testing is set up:  we test among the mass market and see how many we can persuade to use your product. The reality is that leading brands within each category are more loved than the pack of brands struggling to figure themselves out.  It’s better to be loved by a few than tolerated by everyone.  I once talked to a bank whose target was 18-65, current customers, new customers and employees.  That’s not a target.  How can you have a ROI if you’re spreading your limited resources against EVERYONE?  The only thing missing from that target is tourists and prisoners.  You have to matter to those who care the most.
  2. To be GREAT you need to focus on creating a tightly defined reputation that sets your brand up to own an area.  You really only have four choices: better, different, cheaper or not around for very long.  Giving the consumer too many messages about your brand will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique.  Trying to be everything to everyone is the recipe for being nothing to no one.  Today they estimate that consumers receive 7,000 brand messages a day.  Wow.  How many of those 7,000 do you engage with and digest each day?  Maybe 5.  And yet, in your creative brief you think 3 or 4 messages is the way to go.  You have to focus on one message. When you ask a room full of Brand Leaders, tell me one word that defines the Volvo brand:  half the room yells out SAFETY.  Volvo has been singularly focused on the safety positioning since the 1950s not just externally but internally the safety positioning guides every decision.  That’s focus.
  3. You need to focus on very few strategies.  The most simple strategies center around Penetration (getting new users) or frequency (getting current users to use more).  Do you want to get more people to eat your brand or those that already do to eat more?  That’s a choice you must make, yet I see so many Brand Plans with both.  Even worse is when I see creative briefs with both.  These are two different unrelated strategies. When you look for new users, you have to convince someone who already knows about your brand and get them to change their minds away from their current brand.  When you try to get more usage, you have to convince someone who has already decided how to use your brand, to use it differently, changing their habits or rituals.  Brands need to understand where they sit before picking strategies.  Go look at your plan and see if you are making choices.  Because if you’re not, then you’re not making decisions.  

When you focus, four things happen for your brand:  better Return on Investment (ROI); better Return on Effort (ROE); stronger reputation; more competitive and an aligned organization that helps create an experience that delivers your reputation.  So next time you are faced with a decision, make the choice. Don’t pick both, just in case you are wrong.  All you are doing is depleting your resources by spreading them across both choices.  And you’ll never see any movement on your brand so you’ll never find out if you were right or wrong.  Make the choice.  blog ad 1

Habit #2:  GOOD Brand Leaders represent the Brand to the Consumer, but GREAT Brand Leaders represent the consumer to the Brand

Everything starts and ends with the consumer in mind.  I always like to ask Brand Leaders:  “Do you represent your brand to your consumer or do you represent your consumer to the brand?”   Yes, I get stunned looks of confusion when I ask that.  But it’s an important question as to your mindset of how you do your job. bbi twitter ad My challenge to you is to start thinking like your consumer and be their representative to your brand.  You’ll notice the work gets better, you’ll see clearer paths to growth and you’ll start to create a brand that the consumer loves rather than just likes.  When this happens, sales go up and the P&L spits out higher profitability.  Because the more loved the brand, the more powerful position it occupies and the more profit it can generate from that source of power.  

Able to walk in their shoes and speak in their voice?  Get in the shoes of those Consumers and you’ll quickly realize that consumers do not care about what you do, until you care about what they want.  You should be thinking about your consumer every day, all day.  Yes, you need to hit your sales and share goals.   But your consumers are your only source of revenue and you have to know them intimately.  Live and breathe insights about your consumers.

Habit #3:  GOOD Brand Leaders are fundamentally sound with their facts, but GREAT Brand Leaders are fundamentally sound with their instincts.  

I am a huge believer that marketing fundamentals matter–in fact I train Brand Leaders on everything from strategic thinking to writing brand plans and creative briefs.  But that’s a starting point to which you grow from.  If you don’t use fundamentals in how you do your job, you will and should be fired.  So Good Brand Leaders do a good job of bringing fundamentals into how they do their job.  They know how to back up the fundamentals by gathering the right facts to support their arguments.  But GREAT Brand Leaders are able to take it to the next level and bring those same fundamentals and match them against their instincts.  They have a gut feel for decisions they can reach into and bring out at the boardroom table based on the core fundamentals, the experience they bring from past successes and failures as well as this instinctual judgement.  It’s not that great marketers have better instincts, it’s that great marketers are able to believe in their instincts and not shut them down because of what the facts might say.

 

Habit #4:  GOOD Brand Leaders try to do it all themselves.  GREAT Brand Leaders don’t do anything by themselves but they inspire others to do great work

I was one of those Brand Leaders that spent the first part of my career trying to do everything, and the second half of my career trying to do nothing.  inspireI wasn’t slacking off but I finally figured out that the secret was to inspire others.  I fully admit that I was much more successful when I learned to do nothing, but do it really well.  Instead of giving people answers to follow, give them the problems that requires their expertise in solving.

As Brand Leaders, we don’t really know much about anything.  We know a little about this and that.  But purposefully, we are generalists.  And then if we surround ourselves with experts, we owe it to ourselves to ask for their help. Put another way:  when you tell people what to do, there is one simple answer: YES.  When you ask people what they would do, you open yourself to hundreds of solutions you might not even have imagined.  

The next time you have a problem, instead of giving the best answer to the experts, try to come up with the best question and then listen.

Habit #5:  The GREAT Brand Leaders create GREAT Brand Leaders on their team.  

While you might think that having a great product, the right strategy and a winning TV ad will drive your brand, the long-term success of your brand is dependent is how good your people are.  plan adIf you have great Brand Leaders, they will be on top of your business, they will make the necessary strategic course corrections, they will create better executions that connect with consumers and drive profitable growth for your brand. One of the best ways to drive long-term business results from your brands is to make sure you have a strong marketing team in place.  GREAT Brand Leaders understand the very simple equation:  better people means better work and that means better results.

Habit #6:  GREAT Brand Leaders have a desire to Leave a Legacy

I’m always asked so what does it take to be great at marketing, and I’ll always jokingly say “well, they aren’t all good qualities”.  The best marketers I have seen have an ego that fuels them.  That’s not a bad thing, as long as you can manage it and the ego doesn’t get out of control.  I always challenge Brand Leaders to think of the next person who will be in their chair, and what you want to leave them.  When you create a Brand Vision, you should think 10 years from now, advertising campaigns should last at least 5 years and the strategic choices you make should gain share and drive the brand to a new level.  Yet, the reality is you will be in the job for 2-4 years.  When you write a Brand Plan, you should think of the many audiences like senior leaders, ad agencies and those that work on your brand, but you also should think about the next Brand Leader.  What will you do, to leave the brand in a better position than when you took it on?  What will be your legacy on your brand?   

Always Push for Great and Never Settle for OK

 

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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. 

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

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The one way Brand Leaders can get better Advertising.


Because of my role as a Creative Coach for Brand Leaders, I always get asked “so what makes a Brand Leader good at Advertising?”  Most people are surprised by the simplicity of my answer.  Brand Leaders who are good at advertising can get good advertising on the air and keep bad advertising off the air.  Think about that for a bit because that answer is a lot more complicated than first meets the eye. It’s not about how creative you are.  It’s not just picking the right ad either.  

Since Brand Leaders don’t really make the ads, how can one Brand Leader get better work than another?  Well, it starts with your managing your options.  When your agency presents work to you, you really only have three options you can say:

  1. Yes, I approve this ad.
  2. No, I reject this Ad.
  3. Maybe, but here’s some tips to make it even better.

I love when I’m in a room full of Brand Leaders and I ask:  “If you don’t make the advertising and you can only answer yes, no or maybe, then how can you as a Brand Leader, get better advertising?”  The room goes silent, almost like they’ve never been asked this question before. Then the answers start to flow:

  • “keep rejecting the bad ads until they get better ones”
  • “get a new agency”
  • “make sure you give detailed feedback on what to fix”.

Then I say:  “Those answers might you in saying NO to bad ads and MAYBE to ok ads, but how do you get the ads that you want to say YES I approve, are amazing ads instead of just good?”  The room goes silent again, as all the Brand Leaders are stumped.

And then I give my answer:  You have to inspire your agency to make great work.

There’s disbelief.  “Don’t we pay the agency?  We are the client. So why do we have to inspire them?”

Well, let’s look at the simple math.  Most Brand Leaders only make 1 ad per year. inspire Most agencies make 100s of spots per year.  Yet you need  your 1 ad to be great, so you can drive your brand’s results.  The agency needs 5 ads out of 100 to win agency of the year, and about 5 to put in their pitch presentation to try to get new business.  I know I keep changing the question, but maybe the better question for you is “how do you get your ONE ad that you will make this year to be one of the FIVE best ads that your agency will make this year?”

You want to get your agency’s best people to want to work on your brand and you want them to present their best ad ideas.  You want the agency’s best people to go all out, put all of their passion into the work, stay late, call in favors, get the best directors and best talent to want to work on your ad.  

I’m changing the question one more time:  So how do you get the best people at your agency to want to work on your brand and give their best work?

Inspire them.

The best creative people want an opportunity to make great work.  And if they sense you’re the type of client who will enable them, they’ll be attracted to working on your brand.  The best creative people at your agency want problems to solve. They don’t want your answers. At every stage of the process, just give them a new problem they can solve. Don’t say “make it blue” but rather say “how do we make it more bright?” They know great creative has risks and they want to see you willing to take chances.  

Slide1The best account people want to be respected and appreciated. They are always caught in the middle between you and their own creatives. They know their creatives can be a pain in the butt.  You would do wonders for your relationship by not being a pain in the butt as well. They want to see you fight for the work internally, knock down barriers, get your management aligned and be passionate about the work at every stage.  They want you to know how hard they work, and want you to acknowledge their impact.  

The best agencies want a client who wants to make great work.  They want you to show it off as much as they want to. Agencies are more driven by the emotion and pride than they are results. You will get better results if you can tap into the personal pride of your agency.  

Your agency wants you to make work that you love and not settle for work that you think is OK.  I remember struggling one time to give feedback.  1899963_10153777664745332_750304591_nAnd I finally said, “I just don’t love it” and I felt  guilty, like I was telling a girl “it’s not you, it’s me”.  But the reaction of the agency surprsed me because they said “we don’t want to make work you don’t love and the fact that you need to love it makes us want to make work you love” and they pulled the ad off the table.  To me “I love it” is the highest bar you can set.  Because if you don’t love it, then how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?  

The last question:  if you knew that showing up as a better client to your agency would make the work even better, then would you show up differently?  I hope so.

Because that’s how a Brand Leader gets better advertising.   

 

At Beloved Brands, ask us how we can act as a Creative Coach for you, helping you and your agency get to great creative Advertising 

 

To see a training presentation on Get Better Advertising: 

 

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Worst Ad Ever: I promise I would never let you make this ad

If you made this ad, you should be fired.  If you are the Brand Leader, this did nothing for the Lexus brand.  If you are the agency, you let your client down–and likely they are now about to get fired. 

 

Advertising looks easy, but it’s not.  

Good Advertising is not random, it is well planned. The best Advertising is an expression of strategy, that should have a goal for the brand.  It should also have a target market, supported by a key consumers insight that connects with the target.  And it should serve up the main benefit through the advertising.   bbi twitter adAdvertising is commercial art, which really means it’s half art and half science, but it is never all art.  That’s called a museum, not my TV set. Advertising is not “out of the box” creativity, in fact it is a form of “in the box” creativity, where the strategy and creative brief create a box for the creatives to find a solution.  The best creative people at agencies are not blue sky thinkers, but rather problem solvers.  

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 do give coaching on Advertising for clients, and I’d never ever let you make this spot.  In my role, 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”.  

This Lexus ad should have been rejected!  When I look at the Lexus ad above, I should almost be able to write the brief and at least answer these questions:

  1. Who Do We want to sell to?  (target)
  2. What are we selling?  (benefit)
  3. Why should they believe us?  (RTB)
  4. What Do We want the Advertising to do?  (Strategy)
  5. What do Want people to do?  (Response)
  6. What do we want people to feel?   (Brand Equity)

I have no idea of the target, the benefit or what they hope the advertising does.  I don’t even know what they want people to do.  Lexus competes with 3 other brands with very well-defined brand positions:  BMW is all about performance, Mercedes owns luxury and Volvo screams safety all the time. While Lexus came into the market with stylish designs and at a new reasonable price, I’m no longer sure what the brand stands for.  (Lexus is my favourite car I’ve ever owned so far)  

Finding your Difference is not easy

good-vs-different-1I’m always pushing to make ads that are unique, but there is a fine line you have to walk between good-different and bad-different. To be good and different, you need to make what you do really interesting.  This Lexus ad is somewhat different (more weird than different), but it is awful. The ad has nothing to do with the consumer, nothing to do with the brand. It hides the product so much that you would think the client and agency both feel there’s nothing really great to say about the brand.  Can you find advertising that shows how much consumers love the brand?       

The car brand that consistently does Different-Good is Volkswagon who finds unique ways to showcase how much love their consumer feels for their brand. Here’s a couple of great examples for VW:

The ABC’S of Advertising 

Here’s a potential tool you can take into the room that is very easy to follow along.  You want to make sure that your ad delivers on the ABC’S which means it attracts  Attention, it’s about the Brand, it Communicates the brand story and Sticks in the consumers mind.  

  • Attention:  You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising.  Consumers see 6000 ads per day, and will likely only engage in a few.  If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
  • Branding:  Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best.  Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumers view of the brand.  It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits to the climax of the ad.
  • Communication:  Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
  • Stickiness:  Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time.   In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own.  Brands have exist in the minds of the consumer. 
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Attention

Buying media and putting something on air does not attract attention for your ad.  Why would consumers want to listen to what you have to say.  strategy adYou have to EARN the consumers’ attention.  The best way to grab Attention is to take a risk and do something not done before. Here are the 5 ways to attract attention.

  1. Be Incongruent:  This is a great technique to get noticed is by being a bit off kilter or different from what they are watching.  A lot of brand leaders are afraid of this, because they feel it exposes them.  Avoid being like “wallpaper”   If you want a high score on “made the brand seem different”, it starts with acting different.   kitkat
  2. Resonate:  Connect with the consumer in the true way that they see themselves or their truth about how they interact with the brand.
  3. Entertain them:  Strike the consumers emotional cord, by making them laugh, make them cry, or make them tingle.  From the consumers view—they interact with media to be entertained—so entertain them.
  4. The Evolution of the Art of Being Different:  As much as Movies,  TV music continues to evolve, so do ads. As much as your art has to express your strategy, it needs to reflect the trends of society to capture their attention.  Albino fruit flies mate at twice the rate of normal fruit flies.  Be an albino fruit fly!!!
  5. Location Based:  Be where Your consumers are open and willing to listen.  The Media choice really does impact attention.  Make sure your creative makes the most of that media choice.  
Branding

There is an old advertising saying “half of all advertising is wasted, but we aren’t sure which half”.  Coincidently, the average brand link is 50%.  Our goal should always be to get higher.  The best Branding comes when you connect the Brand to the Climax of the ad.   It’s not about how much branding or how early the branding arrives.  

  1. Be Part of the Story:  in the spirit of big ideas, how do you tell a story, using your brand.  It’s not how much branding you use, but rather how closely connected the brand to the climax of your ad.
  2. Is it the Truth:  It sounds funny, but if there is a disconnect between what you say, and what you are….then the brand link won’t be there.  People will discard the ad.
  3. Own the Idea Area:  Be a bit different—make sure that what you do sets you apart from anyone else. 
  4. Repeat:  don’t be afraid of building your brand—and the simplest way to get branding is to repeat and repeat and repeat.
Communication

Communicating is about selling.  Keep in mind, communication is not what is said, but what is heard.  The best way to Communicate is through Story Telling that involves the brand.  The modern-day world of the internet allows richness in story telling.  

  1. Start a Dialogue:  If you can do a good job in connecting with the consumer, the branding idea can be a catalyst that enables you to converse with your consumer.
  2. What are you Selling?  You have to keep it simple—you only have 29 seconds to sell the truth.  Focus on one message…keep asking yourself “what are we selling”.drill
  3. Powerful Expression:  try to find one key visual that can express what you are selling.  This visual can be leveraged throughout
  4. Find Your “More Cheese”:  Many times its so obvious what people want, but we just can’t see it or articulate it. 
  5. Sell the Solution—not the Problem:  Brands get so wrapped up in demonstrating the problem, when really it is the solution that consumers want to buy. 
Stickiness

We all want our ads to stick.  You need to adopt a mindset of “will this idea last for 5 years”.  The Best way to Stick is to have an idea that is big enough.  You should sit there and say is this a big idea or just an ad?

  1. Dominant Characteristic:  things that are memorable have something that dominates your mind (e.g.:  the red-head kid)
  2. How Big Is the Idea?  Its proven that a gold-fish will get bigger with a bigger bowl.  The same for ideas.
  3. Telling Stories:   While visuals are key to communicating, in the end people remember stories—that’s how we are brought up—with ideas and morals that are designed to stick. 
  4. Always Add A Penny:  With each execution, you have a chance to add something to the branding idea.  Avoid duplicating what you’ve done…and try to stretch as much as you can. 
  5. Know Your Assets:  There has to be something in your ad that stick Know what that is and then use it, in new executions or in other parts of the marketing mix.

Yes, the Lexus ad is beautiful shot, likely very expensive–both in production and media.  But it’s so subtle, it won’t catch attention, there’s no way it’s going to brand link or really communicate.  Strike that, since I’m still not sure what the ad is communicating, there’s no way it will communicate.  Add all that up and it won’t stick at all.

At Beloved Brands, ask us how we can act as a Creative Coach for you, helping you and your agency get to great creative Advertising

 

To see a training presentation on Get Better Advertising: 

 

If you are in the mood to see stories on great advertising, here’s a few other stories:

 
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At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

 
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How to lead a motivating Year End Review for Brand Leaders

BBI Learning LogoThe 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 VP 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. 

 

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 do training on all skill levels of marketing, and we provide coaching for leaders wanting to improve.  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. 

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  gr bbi picWe believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  Our President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

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