Tag Archive: brand manager

Here’s how a BIG WIDE BRIEF gets you Lousy Advertising

Great Advertising comes from a Balance of Freedom and Control.  

Slide1One of the worst part about the current state of Brand Management is that most Brand Leaders allow too much freedom on the strategy, but want to have full control over the creative execution. It seems odd because Brand Leaders should be doing the opposite.  

Brand Leaders should control the Strategy and give freedom on the Execution.  

While clients are always asking agencies to see a range of work, what I think they really mean is to see a range of “creative” options, not “strategic” options.  But when you write such a BIG WIDE BRIEF, what you get is a range of strategic options that address various parts of your BIG WIDE BRIEF.  Right away, you give up control over the strategy.  

A Good Brief Should Be Brief, Not Long!  

My simple rule of thumb is that a good briefs should have:

  • one objective
  • one desired consumer response
  • one target tightly defined
  • two consumer insights to tell the story
  • one main benefit
  • one or two main reasons to believe
  • zero creative mandatories

Look at your most current brief and take your pen and stroke things off your BIG WIDE BRIEF!  Once you make your brief smaller and tighter, you’ll see how clearer things will become.  Get rid of the “just in case” lists of things. Stop putting things your boss wants. Stop putting things global wants in your brief. While putting those things into your brief might help you sleep at night, it won’t get you better work and will eventually cause you nightmares.  Before even getting to the brief stage, make sure you do all your homework with an Advertising Strategy that answers the following questions:

  1. Who do we want to sell to?  (Who is your Target Consumer?)
  2. What are we selling?  (What is your main Benefit?) and why should they believe us?  (Reason To Believe)
  3. What do we want the Advertising to do for the brand?  (Strategic Choices)
  4. What do want people to think, feel or do?  (Desired Response)
  5. What’s the long-range feeling the brand evokes (The Big Idea)

The brief should isolate the task to coming up with creative solutions to the defined strategic problem. Never use the advertising process and what ad wins the copy test to come up with your brand strategy.  The strategy frames the execution–the execution never determine the strategy.  

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Stop the BIG WIDE BRIEF and focus your Strategy

The first flaw of a BIG WIDE BRIEF is the Advertising Objective where I’m seeing lists of 3-4 objectives instead of just one objective. Right away, the brief is headed in the wrong direction. Too many briefs have both penetration AND usage frequency listed as one objective. That’s two separate strategies that leads to two targets, two messages and possibly two different media options. Here’s how different these two strategies really are:

  • Penetration ads get someone with very little experience with your brand to consider dropping their current brand to try you once and see if they like you.
  • Usage Frequency ads get someone who knows your brand already, motivating them to change their current behavior so they can fit your brand into more parts of their life.

I see this all the time. Your agency will come back with one ad that does penetration and one that drives frequency and call that a creative range. You just gave up control over the strategy and now the best ad execution decides your brand strategy.

The next flaw of the BIG WIDE BRIEF is an unfocused Target Market. I once worked with a Brand who had their target listed as:  18-65, current customers, new potential customers and employees. My first response was “why did you leave out prisoners and tourists?”.  They were worried about alienating some consumers. Isn’t alienating a synonym of Targeting?  Good advertising should alienate. I expect Beats by Dre advertising to target 17-year-old urban kid with his hat on backwards. I still want those damn headphones. I don’t feel alienated. At Beloved Brands, we recommend a maximum 5-year age gap (e.g. 35-40) in your target definition to ensure that your Ads are focused.  Many briefs have a 20-year age gap (e.g. 30-50) and that is too wide—your agency will give you one ad for 30 year olds and one for 50 year olds—and you just gave up control over the strategy one more time. When thinking of your target, you have to matter most to those who care the most about what you’re selling. It will be easier to move them towards your brand by making them feel special.  Trying to matter to everyone will just confuse the most motivated and leave them feeling like they don’t matter any more than those who don’t even care.Slide1

The third flaw of the BIG WIDE BRIEF is the Desired Consumer Response. Great advertising can only move one body part at a time: the head, the heart, the feet or the soul. Pick one. As more brands are trying to move to “emotive” advertising, you still have to remember that your brand strategy is dependent on where your brand stands now, before you can use Advertising to try to move your brand to a new place.  At Beloved Brands, we use a hypothetical Brand Love Curve to map out where the brand is now, as brands move from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally to the Beloved stage.  If you’re a NEW brand or at the INDIFFERENT stage, you should be focused on the HEAD, so that you can get Consumers to THINK differently about your brand.  It is rare that a brand can move so quickly to the love it stage (Beats by Dre might be one exception).  Put it this way, while everyone in life wants to hear the words “I love you”, it’s kinda creepy and meaningless if you hear it on the first date. If your brand is at the LIKE IT stage, focus on moving the FEET so you can drive ACTION to get consumers to buy and create a following.  If you are at the LOVE IT stage you can focus on the HEART and get current Loyal users to connect emotionally and LOVE you even more. Advertising alone cannot make a consumer love your brand–they have to love you before you tell them to love you. If you are at the BELOVED stage, focus on the SOUL and get those who love your brand to FEEL a part of the Brand. If you don’t decide what body part your ad should focus on, the agency will likely show you a range of emotional and rational ads, and once you pick the safe rational choices you’ve always picked, you’ll only be demoralizing your creative team.

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The final flaw of BIG WIDE BRIEFS is too many Messages. The current generation of Brand Leaders try to say as much as possible. I’m not always sure why, but you need to stop believing that “if we tell them more than they’ll retain more”.  No, the 100 years of marketing says that if you say too much, there is a risk that they’ll hear nothing. What if I told you that in today’s crowded world of advertising, the consumer now sees about 6000 brand messages per day?  Would you still want to give them 5 messages?  I hope not.  Narrow down your message to say ONE THING only.  When list of messages, the agency will likely give you one of those crappy “marriage of benefits” ads just to make you happy.  Or the agency will pick out ONE of the benefits and put the rest into some list that gets read within the ad. Now you’ll be happy with the list, but really you’ve just given up control of what the ONE thing is you want to say.  The only other possible solution is they just get the Voice Over talent to read the script at an even faster pace than normal.  When I was a month into my job as an ABM, at a voice edit the agency told me that our voice over talent made about $500k a year.  I said “what makes him so good?” and the account executive said “he has this unique talent to be able to speak twice as fast as other voice overs and still remain clear, so he’s in very high demand”.  That’s not a good sign for our industry, is it?  Slide1

On the flip side, the current generation of Brand Leaders are trying to control the Creative with a long list of Mandatories.  A well-written brief should have ZERO mandatories. Mandatories feel like a cover up for the insecurity of a badly written brief. The best Brand Leaders give freedom on the creative execution. At the first creative meeting, you should be surprised by the Creative work, but like it as soon as you see it.  You shouldn’t have a clue what the ad will look like. Stop the long list of Mandatories, that makes it so prescriptive the agency ends up backed into a creative corner. Why bother having an agency then?  

Use the Brief to control the Strategy and give freedom on the Execution

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on HOW TO GET BETTER ADVERTISING, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer Brand Coaching, where we promise to make your Brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your Brand’s full potential. For our Brand Leader Training, we promise to make your team of Brand Leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911Slide1

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Vote: Which Derek Jeter retirement Ad is better? Nike or Gatorade

wptv jeter video_1405433712805_6833582_ver1-1.0_640_480Amidst all these problems with athletes in the news, Derek Jeter stands out as the Joe Dimaggio of our generation. Even non-Yankee fans recognize him as a first class player.  Everyone respects him. Thirty years from now, he’ll still command a standing ovation wherever he shows up.     

Two of the major sports brands have made tribute TV ads–both taking a slightly different stance.  For Nike, it seems only true fans will get all the subtleties while the Gatorade ad is for masses–it’s almost more of an Ad about New York than baseball.  

Both are great.  Watch below and then cast your vote.  

 

Nike “RE2PECT”

Gatorade “Made in New York”

 

Vote Below: 

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on HOW TO GET BETTER ADVERTISING, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer Brand Coaching, where we promise to make your Brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your Brand’s full potential. For our Brand Leader Training, we promise to make your team of Brand Leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

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Case Study: The Starbucks Come Back story: Losing their focus, only to regain it!!!

ray_charles_starbucks.03In 2003, Starbucks was on their first peak of their climb. It’s very likely that the corporate ego was also peaking.  “We can do anything”. But, just as they hit that peak, somehow their corporate arrogance got the best of them and they decided they are bigger than “just coffee”, so they created their own recording company, which successfully won 8 Grammy’s 2 years later. In 2006, Starbucks launched their first movie, then started partnership with William Morris to scout for music, books, films and finally Starbucks opened their own “entertainment” office in LA.  I remember when, a few agency folks marvelling and trying to convince me to follow the Starbucks lead.  The whole idea was that Starbucks had the potential to be the “third place” in people’s lives:  Home, Office and Starbucks.  The music and movies were all part of bringing that to life for Starbucks. Marketing academics were writing about it and gushing over it. That’s ok as an idea in theory, but in terms of managing a culture, Starbucks had a very hard time staying focused on what they did best:  make a great cup of coffee.  

By 2008, the lack of focus caught up with them. The most loyal consumers of Starbucks were seeing cracks in the service and quality and began choosing local establishments, who were solely focused on making a great cup of coffee.  Starbucks cut 18,000 jobs, closed 977 stores and same store sales were down 7%. Stock price falls to $7.83, down from $39.63 in 2008.  Yikes.

sbux_fallenThe Starbucks brand was in complete free fall. I remember doing a speech, right at the height of the Starbucks collapse and very few people considered it a beloved brand.  I was almost in shock.  And, about half the room figured it wouldn’t be around in 10 years. People were seriously starting to wonder “is this the next Benetton?”  (the brand that drank and believed in their own Kool Aid)

In 2009, Starbucks re-focused on what they do best: COFFEE.  They had no choice.  Every turnaround story has to start with “so what do we do best?” and then eliminate everything else. They closed every store for a day of re-training the barista. A brilliant move to tell most loyal consumers: “we know we messed up, but we’re going to get it back”.  But more importantly, it told the culture of Starbucks that the most important thing we do is make a great cup of coffee.  That barista is essential to our brand. It all starts with that. Starbucks began to innovate, but again it was focused going deeper around their COFFEE, with broader line of coffee, pastries, accessories sandwiches. No more movies or music.  All of a sudden, they were focused.  27sbux.600

Following the comeback story, by 2014, Starbucks sales are up 58% versus 2009, five-year 10% CAGR. Gross Margins are back up to healthy 55% range from a low of 28%. The current Starbucks stock price at $75, a $10K investment back in 08 would get you $95,800 today. The crucial lesson for Starbucks is the lack of focus cost them dearly in providing what it was that made them famous:  a great cup of coffee.  Yes, they can be that third place in people’s lives….as long as the coffee is good. 

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Focus is essential to Strategy 

The only way to win in strategy is when your gains exceed your effort—you to get more, than you put in. That starts with focus.  Every Brand has limited resources (financial, time, effort and alliances) against endless opportunistic choices to make (target, message, strategy and activities). Strategy starts with making a choice, where you will apply your limited resources, against the pressure points you know you can win and breakthrough, so that you can gain something bigger than the point itself.

Focus makes you matter most to those who care the most. Don’t blindly target consumers:  target the most motivated.  Focusing your limited resources on those consumers with the highest motivation and  propensity to buy what you are selling will deliver the highest return on investment.  In a competitive category, no one brand can do it all: brands must be better, different or cheaper to survive. Giving the consumer too many messages will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique. Trying to be everything to everyone is the recipe for being nothing. Return on Effort (ROE) is a great tool for focusing your activity.  Doing a laundry list of activity spreads your resources so thin that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”. And in a crowded and fast economy, “ok” never breaks through enough to get the early win and find that tipping point to open up the gateway to even bigger success. 

When you focus, 5 things happen to your Brand.

  1. Better Return on Investment (ROI): With all the resources against one strategy, one target, one message, you’ll be able to move consumers enough to drive sales or push other key performance indicators in the right direction.  
  2. Better Return on Effort (ROE): It’s about getting more back than you put into the effort. Working smart helps make the most out of your people resources.
  3. Stronger Reputation: When you only do one thing, you naturally start to become associated with that one thing—externally and even internally.  Reputation is a power you can push to find deeper wins.
  4. More Competitive: As your reputation grows, you begin to own that one thing and you can better defend that positioning territory. You can expose the weakness of your competitors, attract new consumers as well as push internally (R&D, service, sales) to rally behind the newly created reputation. 
  5. Bigger and Better P&L: As the focused effort drives results, it opens up the P&L with higher sales and profits. People with money invest where they see return. 

Focus starts with knowing what you do best and stick with it 

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on HOW TO THINK STRATEGICALLY, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer Brand Coaching, where we promise to make your Brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your Brand’s full potential. For our Brand Leader Training, we promise to make your team of Brand Leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

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The biggest factor in getting to great advertising….is the client.

If you are a Brand Leader who struggles with advertising, you know how hard it is. I’m asked all the time, what is it that makes one Brand Leader good at advertising and another not so good? 

Simply put, great Brand Leaders are able to consistently get great advertising that drives towards their objective into the market, and equally able to keep bad advertising that does nothing for them off the air.

Some Brand Leaders blame themselves, almost surrendering to the idea of: “I’m more strategic type of marketer, and not that good at advertising”.  But I hope you don’t quit on yourself, because being good at Advertising takes experience, practice, leadership, feedback and a willingness to adjust. You can get better, if you really want to.  Slide1Some Brand Leaders blame their agency, and even fire their agency. But from my view, an OK agency can do great work on a great client. But a great agency can fail miserably with a bad client. Most clients fail to realize that the role of the Brand Leader is the most important factor in getting great ads. 

If you knew that how you showed up as a Client would get you better advertising, do you think you would actually show up differently? 

At creative meetings, do you stay big picture, avoid getting into details? When giving direction, do you avoid giving your own solutions?  When you gave your agency a brief, you put them in a box.  Now you should use your feedback as a way to put them in a new box ,a modified version of the box you created with the brief you gave them. Agencies don’t want your solutions, they just want your problems. The best agencies are problem solvers who are in the box thinkers.  As a great Brand Leader, your role is always to give them a box they can solve.

The best advertising comes from a very tight Brand strategy.  How tight is your brief?  

Do you stay focused on ONE target, ONE strategy, ONE benefit behind ONE big idea? Avoid the “just in case list” where you sneak “one more thing” onto the brief.  Narrow the Target market and tell their story with engaging insights.  Start with the desired consumer response before deciding what your brand should say.  Develop a testable Brand Concept before the brief so you know the strategy works with consumers, isolating the creative as the only thing you need to figure out.  Slide1

Are you one of the FAVORITE clients of your agency? 

As a Brand Leader, your role is inspire everyone to WANT to work on your brand, never treat them like they HAVE to work on your business. I know you pay the agency, so you might think that motivates them right away.  Not quite.  Do you meet the creative team before the first creative meeting to connect, align them with your vision and inspire them to push for great work? My guess is you don’t. You wait till that first creative meeting, and get introduced to the people who have been secretly working on your brand for the past few weeks. Are you the type of client to take creative risks, and be willing to be different to stand out?  Great advertising is a balance of control and freedom.  You should control the strategy and give freedom on the creative, but somehow the reverse happens.  Uncertain Brand Leaders give freedom on the strategy, yet they come into the advertising process with a pre-determined look and feel.   

If you meet resistance to GREAT advertising, even from your boss, are you the Brand Leader that is willing to fight anyone in the way? 

Every great ad I’ve worked on, there was almost a breaking point.  Whenever I fondly think of my old ads, I always smile when I think of that “near breaking point” that we got past.  As the Brand Leader you have to be the one to fight for great work and maneuver through that near breaking point. Your agency will take notice that you are that type of leader and they’ll want to work on your brand, willing to give you their best work. Do you resist approving Advertising that is “just OK” and “safe”?   What signal do you think it sends everyone involved? I believe that you have to LOVE your advertising, and never settle for OK.  Somewhere along the line, if you don’t love it, you’ll likely just give in. And then everything fails.  And you start again.  

If you knew that how you showed up as a Client was the biggest factor in getting better advertising, do you think you would actually show up differently?

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on HOW TO GET BETTER ADVERTISING, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer Brand Coaching, where we promise to make your Brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your Brand’s full potential. For our Brand Leader Training, we promise to make your team of Brand Leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

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Is it time we admit that the Apple BRAND is better than the Apple PRODUCT?

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Apple is clearly the brand of our generation. In our house, we have an iMac desktop, 2 iPads, 3 iPhones, and two MacBooks.  I love Apple. But this past spring, as my phone contract expired, I started to wonder if I get the iPhone 5S or wait for the iPhone 6.  I was a free agent, and started to look around. I looked at the Android, but like many “Apple fans”, I viewed them as the competition, like a NY Yankee fan might view the Boston Red Sox. The more I dug in, the more I realized the Android phone was quite better than the iPhone: bigger screen, faster processor, better camera.  So I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Whaaaat? That’s right. A Samsung. I felt like a cult member who snuck out of the compound one night and drooled when I saw the Samsung phone. I could see the Galaxy was light years ahead of my iPhone.  Now that I see the iPhone 6, I’m glad I bought the Samsung instead of waiting.  

Yes, the Apple iPhone 6 news kinda fizzled, but does that matter anymore?

I’m no tech expert, but the iPhone 6 feels a very incremental technology. I’m sure it does a few things I’m not aware of or could appreciate. Financial analysts were so bored by the launch, many downgraded the stock. Yes, the Apple stock price is extremely high, but maybe it’s time for the stock to stop living and dying based on the next great launch.  And maybe, it’s time for us to realize that Apple has shifted from a product driven brand to an idea driven brand.  The real reason people buy Apple is the BIG IDEA that “We make technology so SIMPLE, everyone can be part of the future”. With Apple, it has become less about how we think about the product and more how we feel about the brand. While Samsung has a better product than they do a brand, Apple now has a better brand than they do a product.  Samsung can’t get past talking features instead of benefits, offering almost zero emotional connection beyond the product.  Apple has created such an intensely tight bond with their consumers, they are more powerful than your average monopoly. Apple uses that power with the very consumers who love them, against competitors who try to imitate them and through every type of media or potential key influencer in the market. Below we have mapped out the Brand Strategy Road Map for the the Apple brand.  

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Apple isn’t really a technology leader, and likely never was. Yes, Apple had an amazing decade of new products from 2001-2011 that gave us the iPod, iTunes, Macbook Air, iPhone and iPad, but Apple is 
a quick follower who figure out the mistakes the technology leaders make and then cleans them up for the mass market. Apple exploits the fact that the first to market technologies are so badly launched (mp3 players, on-line music and tablets) the average consumer never really sees them, leaving the perception that Apple is the innovator. Apple’s product strategy is: “We bring technology that is simple and consumer friendly across a broad array of electronics products. Products have simple stylish designs, user-friendly functionality, convenience and speed.”  Apple’s brand story, told through great advertising like “Mac vs PC” is: “Technology shouldn’t be intimidating or frustrating. We make it simple enough so you can be engaged right away, do more and get more, with every Apple product you are use.”   As an example below, the  beautiful ads over the past year are less about the product features and more about how the brand makes you feel.  

 

The most Beautiful Apple Product Apple is now their P&L statement

Maybe we just need to relax on these Apple launches and admire Apple’s Profit and Loss statements.  Apple is going to sell about 80 million iPhone 6’s and I bet the iPhone 6 will be under many Christmas trees this year. Stores continue to be packed–it’s tough to even get an appointment.  The Apple retail stores have the highest sales per square foot, almost twice the #2 store, which is Tiffany’s selling diamond rings.  

Apple is now a huge mass market corporate brand, with a market capitalization of $600 billion, 3 times the value of companies like Coke, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer and IBM.  Apple has moved from the challenger type brand to the “king of the castle” brand. Back in the 1980s, IBM was the “drive the BMW, wear a blue suit with polished shoes” type brand, while Apple was “comfortable in your VW Bug, tee-shirt and sandals” brand. Apple was the alternative, anti-corporate, artist. But that’s changed. As much as Apple fought off and won against the corporate arrogant brands like IBM, Microsoft and Sony, they’ve now become that very type of corporate brand.

At Beloved Brands, we believe the more loved a brand is by it’s consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand can be.  The best example of this model is the Apple brand. 

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In researching the Apple brand, and as a true brand geek like me, when I opened up their P&L statement I almost gushed:  I drooled over the compound annual growth rate, stared at the margin % and was in awe of how their fixed marketing spend stayed constant as the sales went through the roof.  It’s the P&L that every Brand Leader wants to leave for the next guy.  

Apple Brand > Apple Product

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on the programs we offer, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better. We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer Brand Coaching, where we promise to make your Brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your Brand’s full potential. For our Brand Leader Training, we promise to make your team of Brand Leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

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The best advertising comes when Brand Leaders control the strategy and give freedom on the execution.

Control the Strategy with a Tight Brief

Brand Leaders take pride in being strategic thinkers. Yet, why when it comes to Advertising, do they throw strategic thinking out the window and become masters of execution? To get great advertising, Brand Leaders should control the strategy and give freedom on the execution. Yet I see them giving up control over the strategy all the time. A good tight brief has one problem, one objective, one target and one main message.  As soon as you write a broad brief that goes beyond that, you’ve just given up control over the strategy.

  • If your brief has a broad target market, some ads will naturally fit younger and some will fit older. But it’s unlikely one ad will fit both targets. A good brief should have no more than a 5 year age gap on the target. 
  • If your brief has two benefits, the agency will come back with one ad for the first benefit and another ad for the second benefit. I hope that’s not what you wanted when you picked two benefits. Or worse yet, you’ll get the “marriage of both benefits” type ads and those are usually very lame. A good brief should have only one benefit!!!!
  • If your brief has two objectives, it will fail at both. So many briefs I see advertising objective say: “get new users and get current users to use more” (penetration and frequency).  That’s impossible in one ad. Getting new users is getting competitive users to THINK differently about your brand so they cast aside their current brand to try you just once. Yet, driving usage frequency is a message to those familiar with your brand and trying to get them to FEEL differently enough to change their behavior. I would argue it’s impossible to achieve these two things with one ad. If I’m wrong, send me an ad that does both. If you can’t find that ad, then go to your brief now, and if you have both objectives, strike out one and your brief will get better. 

Your broad brief, which might help you sleep at night, just squandered your control over the strategy. And soon you’ll be having nightmares. The role of the brief is to create a nice tight “box” that defines the problem, objective, target and main message. Since the best agency talent are “in the box” thinkers who solve problems, the best brief gives them a “box” to solve. Briefs with multiple objectives or many main benefits send the signal to agencies that you aren’t quite sure and want the agency to pick the strategy. Briefs with a long list of mandatories sends the signal that even though we don’t know the strategy, we do think we know what we want the execution should look like. A great brief is tight enough that it doesn’t even need mandatories.  

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Give freedom on execution to your Agency

Being a Brand Leader is a very odd job: you don’t do anything and you don’t really know anything. You don’t make the product, don’t sell the product and don’t make the ads. You just make decisions. However, marketing seems to attract know-it-all types that love to tell everyone what to do. I was once one of those know-it-all Brand Managers so I know that type well. And yet, only when I figured out that not knowing anything, and not doing anything put me in a more powerful position to make better decisions did I master the art of Brand Management. If the agency is a problem solver, then you are a problem giver. Think of it like great therapy. You just spill your problems and others come up with solutions and you decide on which solution works best. The only thing you have to do well, is make decisions. What a great job.  

At every stage of advertising, Brand Leaders really have 3 options: 1) approve the work 2) reject the work or 3) change the work.Slide1

From what I see, Brand Leaders rarely approve the work outright. Even though the agency would love it, it is almost unrealistic to think they could perfect the ad without any challenge from the marketer. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few ads in my career that required very little feedback. It likely means we nailed the brief. The reality is that great work is usually made collaboratively with both agency and client.  

On the flip side, Brand Leaders are sometimes too uncertain to reject the work completely. They tend to keep things alive too long. I remember on my first ad, I kept being so passive on this one idea that I hated. I never rejected it fully and the agency kept coming up with new ways to fix that ad. Here’s my advice: if you don’t love the ad, you’re not doing anyone a favor by keeping it alive. Great advertising takes a fight internally, and many times if you don’t love the work, then you won’t fight for it. Explain why you hate it and if that creates a new problem for the agency, you might be surprised at a new solution they come up with.  

It seems that most times, Brand Leaders choose the option to change the work. Do you think that’s your role in the process?  I see too many Brand Leader showing up ready to pounce on the work with a list of changes, rather than digesting it and making decisions on how to make the work better.  They’ll say: “make the lead a woman instead of a man, move the pack shot earlier, get rid of that line and change this line.” What I don’t understand is that If you didn’t feel talented enough to come up with an ad in the first place, why are you now talented enough to do something even harder: to change the work.  I’d challenge brand leaders to stop coming up with solutions and rather start finding ways to frame their problems, so they keep the agency engaged and challenged.

Being the Brand Leader on the hot seat is not easy.  

Until you gain experience in the hot seat, it is highly stressful, scary and uncertain. It can feel like your brain is spinning,so many thoughts are going around in your head and you feel pressure to say the right thing. 

Slide1Try to stop spinning by asking yourself four key questions:

  1. Do I love it? How passionate are you? If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it? If you “sorta like” it, then it will be “sorta ok” in the end. But if you love it, you’ll go the extra mile and make it amazing. Would you be proud of this as your legacy?
  2. What is my gut reaction? What’s your immediate reaction when you reach for your instincts? Relax, slow yourself down enough to soak it in, right in the meeting. It’s easier to quickly reject out of fear than find what your gut really says. Many times, instincts get hidden away because of the job.
  3. Is it on strategy? Is the Ad an expression of what you wrote in your strategy documents? Use a process to help frame things in your mind, so you can evaluate it past how you feel. The tool I recommend is the ABC’s (attention, branding, communication, stickiness) which helps to give you something to ground yourself. Take your time with this thinking.
  4. Does the ad have long-term potential? Is it BIG IDEA, you can see lasting for 5-10 years, going across various mediums (mass, on-line, in store), capable of speaking of the entire product line up, Think about leaving a legacy beyond your time in the role, which forces you to think of campaign-ability.

When you slow it down, you’ll start to see ideas and not executions.You’ll be able to sort through what’s working and not working for your brand. Next time, instead of providing solutions to your agency with a “list of changes we want” I’d challenge you to give the agency a problem with a “list of challenges to the work”. In essence, if the original brief created a “box” for the creative team to figure out “in the box” solutions, then use  your feedback to create a “modified box” for the agency to solve, not a check list of changes you want on the ad. Never be afraid to slow it down, think it through, see where it is going or where it could go. Sometimes when we slow down our thinking, then the actions actually go faster. Great Brand Leaders think with strategy, and act with instincts.

The role of the client might be the most important factor in getting great ads. An OK agency can do great work on a great client. But a great agency will fail with a bad client. So be the best client you can be.

If you knew that being a better client got you better advertising, would you actually be able to show up better? 

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on HOW TO GET BETTER ADVERTISING, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better. We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer Brand Coaching, where we promise to make your Brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your Brand’s full potential. For our Brand Leader Training, we promise to make your team of Brand Leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

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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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