Six Habits of Great Brand Leaders

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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.


  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.  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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The one way Brand Leaders can get better Advertising.

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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 


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

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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.   Advertising 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. 

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.  

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.

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. 

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


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


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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A Brand Leader’s view of what makes a good Advertising Agency

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It seems that clients are firing ad agencies very quickly these days.  

I’m half way old enough that I’m straddling the fence on whether agencies are as good as the old days. But it seems that there are pitches going on constantly, and yet no one is really wanting to look themselves the mirror and say “Am I part of the problem?”

I’ve been brought in a few times to look at the situation. The first thing I normally tell the Brand Leader is “you have to fire yourself first” and then see if the agency is still bad. The best clients respect the process, the agency and their own judgment. And yet, most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting to great creative. As a Brand Leader, if you knew that showing up better would get you better advertising, do you think you could?  If there are 100 steps in every advertising development stage and you show up OK at each step, how are you possibly thinking you’ll end up with a GREAT ad at the end?  

How do you fire Yourself?

When a relationship gets off the rails, what I do is an Advertising “Audit” where we look at the behaviors and processes in getting to the advertising.  

    • What’s your brief look like?  Is it fundamentally sound? I’ve seen 8 page briefs that don’t even have a benefit or any consumer insights. And I’ve seen other clients that say “we didn’t write a brief for that one, we just phoned it in”. Even though the media has changed in this modern world, the fundamentals around writing briefs should not. You need to distill your strategy, either from your brand plan or what’s in your head down to 1 page. Here’s a story on how to write a better creative brief.  How to Write an Effective Creative Brief
    • What is your behavior like at advertising meetings? My belief is that advertising is a balance of freedom and control and many clients I see give too much freedom in areas they should control and too much control in areas they should give more freedom. You should control the strategy and decision-making, but you should give freedom to the creative expression and execution of the work. I’ll observe tone to see how motivating you are, how you communicate and how you make decisions in the meeting that lead to the direction you give.  My view is that one person should do all the feedback and that the feedback should be motivating yet it really should be directive as to how to improve the work. Too many clients try to be motivating but fear giving direction so they opt for vague. The agency walks away not even knowing what’s next. Here’s an article on how to Judge Advertising:  How to Judge AdvertisingSlide1
    • How do you make decisions? As long as it’s consistent and transparent, there is room for latitude, but the agency just has to know so they can adjust. Too many times, clients don’t want the agency to see how decisions get made. If you have a consensus culture, what I recommend is that during the creative meeting, you take a 30 minute break where your team gathers its feedback and then assigns one person to take the agency through. If your culture is top down, and potentially the real decision maker isn’t even in the room, I recommend that one senior agency person accompany you through the internal approval process. They can listen and respond to the comments directly. And usually, they are better at selling creative work than you are. As long as they are aligned with what you want, the tag-team approach should be even better.  

The reason you want to “fire yourself first” is it allows you to now see clearly if it really is the agency or if it was just you. The added benefit is that if you still see that the agency is not where you need them to be and you still want to fire them, then at least you will be showing up better to your new agency, rather than that dysfunctional client before the audit.  

What makes for a good Advertising Agency?

I come at this from the vantage of a client, having spent 20 years working as a Brand Leader.  I’m not an Ad Agency guy, never having worked a day at an agency in my life.  But I’ve seen some great agencies and some not so good.  Here’s my list of what makes a Great Agency:

  1. They work for you, not your boss. While your boss pays them and has the final say, they still know you are the client. Nothing worse than a client services person constantly trying to go above your head. The best way for an agency to earn your trust is to consistently demonstrate that they work for you. That trust will earn them a seat, along side you, at the table of your boss. You will know they have your back and will support your recommendation, not cave at the whim of your boss.    
  2. They understand your goals, your issues and your strategies. They write briefs that are on your brand strategy and deliver work that expresses your brand strategy. Yes, the modern agency struggles to write advertising strategies that align to the Brand’s strategy. Just as though clients are not trained enough in the areas of strategy and planning, I see the same thing on the Agency side.  As margins are squeezed, the first casualty is strategic planning. Yet, that might be one of the most important. I’d prefer to have a great strategic planner on the brand than have 5 client services people each show up taking notes at meetings.  
  3. They make work that drives demand and sells more widgets, not work that just wins awards. Awards are part of the agency world–helping to motivate creative people and establishing the agency reputation in the market. I once had an agency person say: “we can’t write that strategy because it will make for boring work”. The balance of winning awards and selling more widgets always has to side with selling more widgets. I’m really tired of agencies starting off creative meetings with the “we are so excited” line. You want an agency that comes into a room and says “we have an ad for you that will sell more of your product”.  
  4. They give options. And they don’t always 100% agree. Come on agencies. We are in year 100 of making ads and you haven’t figured out yet that the clients like options. Each option has to deliver the strategy. Nothing worse than agencies who tear apart the brief and deliver options for each part of the brief.  (e.g. here’s one for the younger audience, here’s one that does fast really well and here’s one that does long-lasting) That’s not creative options, that’s now strategic options. We collectively decide on the strategy before the creative process begins, not meander the strategy during the creative process. As clients, options give us comfort. But even more importantly, options treat us with respect that we can still make the right decision.  
  5. Agencies are not territorial. They are transparent allowing you open and free access to their planners and creative people. It’s really the account people here. Good account people allow you to communicate directly with the creative team. Most great creative teams that I have worked with want direct access to the client, rather than have it be filtered through a series of contact reports.  
  6. They adjust and easily take feedback.  Agencies serve at the pleasure of the client. Every client is unique and the best agencies adjust to that style. Not only the company but even the individual. I used to sit with my Account leader every quarter and go through how we can each get better. Some clients aren’t even doing annual agency performance reviews.  
  7. They are positive and already motivated to work on your brand. While I do encourage clients to motivate their agencies, it’s much easier to motivate someone who is already motivated.  When I see a 25-year old account person openly complaining, I see that as a problem with the culture of the agency, not a problem for the client to have to figure out. I’m now on the service side as a consultant, and we can never openly complain.  
  8. They teach. When I was a new Brand Manager, my client services person (Leslie Boscheratto) taught me more about advertising than any client should have to learn. In fact, I’m still embarrassed at how little I knew, yet thrilled at how much I learned from that team at Bates back in the mid 90s.  
  9. They act like you are their only client. And you feel important to them, no matter what share your budget is of the overall agency. Why sign you up as a client and then keep reminding you that they have Coke, Budweiser or Dove. When you are with me, treat me as though I’m the most important client in the world.  
  10. Trusted Advisor: They are a trusted advisor who will give you real advice, not just on advertising but on your performance and on the overall brand.  Most senior agency folks have seen plenty of clients come and go. Never be afraid to find a quiet moment with your agency person and ask two simple questions: “what can I do better” and “what do your best clients do that I could learn from”.

Here’s the flip side to the story with an article I wrote a few months ago on “The worst type of Clients”.  To read that click on:  Ten Worst Types of Advertising Clients

You’ll notice the one thing missing from my list is “They Make Great Work”.  That’s a given because that’s the only reason you hire an agency. Yes, some agencies make better work than others. But even those agencies that make great work, also make bad work. And if we were to look at why, it would likely start with the relationship, processes or interactions. So if the client can fix what they are doing wrong and the agency can show up right, then you should be able to make good work together.  

Making great advertising is simple, but very hard to do. 

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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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