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Tag Archive: management

8 simple ways to be a better Brand Leader

Brand LeadershipAs we push to be great Brand Leaders, here are 8 ways to push yourself to be better. This is from the 20 years of hiring, training, encouraging and even firing Brand Leaders.  Here are 8 things that separate amazing from OK.

A great Brand Leader takes ownership of the brand.  I’ve seen many Brand Leaders struggle with the transition from being a helper to being the owner.  As you move into the job, you have to get away from the idea of having someone hand you a project list.  Not only do you have to make the project list, you have to come  up with the strategies from which the projects fall out of.  A good owner talks in ideas in a telling sense, rather then an asking sense.  It’s great to be asking questions as feelers, but realize that most are going to be looking to you for the answers.  They’ll be recommending you’ll be deciding.  When managing upwards be careful of asking questions—try to stick to solutions.  “I think we should build a big bridge” instead of “any ideas for how we can get over the water”.  You just gave up your ownership.  I’d rather have you tell me what you want to do, and we debate from there, rather then you ask me what we should do.  I’ll be better able to judge your logic, your passion and your vision. 

A great Brand Leader provides the vision & strategies to drive results. Vision is sometimes a hard thing to articulate. It’s sometimes easy to see times when there is a lack of vision.  You have to let everyone know where you want to go.  The strategy that matches becomes the road map for how to get there.  As the brand owner, you become the steward of the vision and strategy.  Everything that is off strategy has to be rejected and your role is to find ways to steer them back on track.  It’s easy to get side-tracked by exciting programs or cool ideas, but if they are off-strategy then they have to be rejected.  The communication of strategy is a key skill.  Learn to talk in strategic stories that can frame your direction.  Learn to think in terms of pillars—which forces your hand around 3 different areas to help achieve your strategy.  Having pillars constantly grounds you back in your strategy, and is an easy way for communicating with the various functions—they may only have 1 strategic pillar that matters to them personally, but seeing the other parts makes them feel as though their work is worth it.

A great Brand Leader gets what they need.   The organization is filled with groups, layers, external agencies, with everyone carrying a different set of goals and motivations.  Working the system entails taking what you have learned about ownership one step further.  You understand the organizational components, and then you go get what you need.  Again communication becomes key—you can’t let missed communications cause angst or concerns.  Also, its crucial that you get the best from everyone.  I have found it useful upfront to ask people for their best.  It’s a strange step, but I have found it useful.   If you really have someone that’s good, you know they’ll respond to this.  The good news is that only 0.1% of people ask them, so it’s not like they’ve heard it that many times. 

A great Brand Leader can handle pressure.  There are Four Types of Pressure that Brand Leaders Face

  1. Ambiguity is one of the hardest.  This is where patience and composure come into play as you sort through the issues.  The consequences of not remaining composed is likely a bad decision. 
  2. If the Results don’t come in, it can be frustrating.  Reach for your logic as you re-group.  Force yourself to course correct, rather then continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat.  
  3. Relationships.  Be pro-active in making the first move.  Try to figure out what motivates as well as what annoys them.   Most times, the common ground is not that far away. 
  4. Time Pressure.  It’s similar to the ambiguity.  Be organized, disciplined and work the system so it doesn’t get in your way.   Be calm, so you continue to make the right decisions. 

A great Brand Leader can Hold your team to a Consistently high standard of work:  Rather than being the leader by example, I’d rather see you establish a standard and hold everyone and yourself to that standard.  .  For a new Brand Leader, this is one of the harder areas—how to balance the freedom you give with the standard you demand.    You need to organize the team and build in processes in a way that produces consistent output, your team hits all deadlines, stays focused and keeps things moving.  But it can also show up in the quality of brand plans, execution and interactions with everyone specifically sales.  Be the control point of the team, and not let slips, errors or delays show beyond the team.  Delegate so you motivate your stars, but never abdicate ownership of how your team shows up.

A great Brand Leader is an outstanding leader of people by leveraging Consistent People Leadership and Management.   Newly appointed Brand Leaders have taken on more leadership roles.  You have to let your team breathe and grow.   There are likely future super stars within the ranks.   We know you can write a brand plan, roll out a promotion super fast and make snap decisions on creative.  But can you inspire your team to do the same?  Junior marketers have high ambitions–constantly wanting praise, but equally seeking out advice for how to get better.  Brand Managers are still learning to be brand owners, many times younger than they should be.  It becomes the director’s role to manage the talent–giving equal praise and challenges for how to get better.  A great  Brand Leader should be meeting quarterly with each team member one on one to take them through a quarterly performance review.   Waiting for year-end is just not enough.  Be passionate about people’s careers–anything less they’ll see it as merely a duty you are fulfilling.  

A Great Brand Leader shows up Consistently to the Sales Team:   As a Brand Leader, you have to be seen as one who is willing to listen.  Great sales people challenge marketers to make sure their account wins.   I’ve seen many sales teams destroy the Brand Leader because they don’t listen, and they stubbornly put forward their plan without sales input.   Great Brand Leaders should informally meet with all key senior sales people on a quarterly basis, to get to know them and let them know you are listening to their problems.  With this forum, you’ll get more of the bubbling up of problems–not just waiting for problems to explode.   If a sales people feel they’ve been heard, they are more apt to follow the directors vision and direction.   Many times, the debate can be healthy and help the sales people frame the story they need to tell with their accounts.  Be the one Brand Leader that consistently reaches out and listens.  They’ll be in shock, and stand behind your business.

A Great Brand Leader Delivers Consistent Results:  A great Brand Leader hits the numbers and yet when they don’t hit them, they are the first to own it and put forward a recovery plan before being asked.  They have an entrepreneurial spirit of ownership, rather than just being a corporate pencil pusher.   Proactive communication upwards and with your own team.  Reach out for help across the organization.  Know your business and let everyone know what you know.  Be the leader that makes everything perfectly transparent–everyone will follow you.

You might also enjoy this article

Eight Leader Behaviors to Be Great Brand Leader

Challenge Yourself: If you knew that showing up different would drive better Brand results, then could you show up different?

 

Follow me on Twitter @grayrobertson1

 

Here’s a presentation on Successful Marketing Careers:  

 

Other Roles You May Be Interested In
  • 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

 

Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Monthly Report: One of the first tasks they assign the ABM is writing the monthly sales and share report.  Not only is a necessity of the business, but it’s your best training ground for doing a deep dive on analytics and strategic writing.   To read how to write a Monthly Report, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Monthly Report
  2. How to Write a Brand Positioning Statement.  Before you even get into the creative brief, you should be looking at target, benefits and reason to believe.   To read how to write a Brand Positioning Statement, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write an Effective Brand Positioning Statement
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits 

Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

Pick your Social Media vehicle and follow us by clicking on the icon below:

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To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.

 

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Forget the 4 P’s. Build Your Brand through the 5 sources of Connectivity

Brand LeadershipThe Evolution of Brands Beyond the Product

Most of us started learning about marketing by looking at the 4 P’s:  Product, Price, Promotion and Place.   While I’ve seen people adding P’s, a fifth one and even have seen up to eight P’s.  I guess it’s a fairly easy way to teach marketing.  It’s an OK way to learn, but it seems to treat marketing like an activity and not really a strategy.  You get a product and then figure out where to sell it, what to charge and how to promote it and voila, now you are a marketing guru.

It’s true that most brands do start off as a product or service that helps to address some type of problem the consumer has in their lives.  Slide1Early on it’s about a selling activity where you push your brand onto the target market and hope they buy.  As the brand evolves, you start to establish an identity for the brand that gets well-known, you start narrowing what you’re naturally best at down to a promise and begin executing and building your experience around the promise.  As you keep evolving, the Brand starts to shift towards becoming an Idea that helps solve the consumer’s emotional problems.  

    • Apple is not just a computer or cell phone.  It’s based on an idea of “simplicity that deals with the frustration over technology”.  
    • Dove is not just a soap or hand cream, but all about the idea of “real beauty that allows women to feel comfortable with who they are”.  
    • Starbucks is not just a coffee and pastries, but an “escape from a hectic day”

While a lot of the Beloved Brands have taken 20 years or even 90 years to earn their status, you can advance your brand faster by starting off as an idea.  It becomes less about product and more about the big idea from day 1.   It becomes less about hopeful tactics and more about insightful strategy.  You’ll be able to build around the idea rather than getting stuck in the constraints of what your product does.    An idea helps you connect with consumers and that connection gives your brand added power, and the power can be used to drive higher growth and profits. 

A Beloved Brand is based on an idea that’s worth loving.

The Brand Love Curve

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a hypothetical Brand Love Curve, where brands go from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life.

At the Beloved Brand stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings.  Consumers become outspoken fans.  It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with.  The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand.  It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand.

A Beloved Brand uses the love consumers have for the brand to replicate the power of a Monopoly.  And from that power, it drives stronger growth and higher profits.

The Five Sources of Connectivity: Promise, Strategy, Story, Freshness, Culture

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

Slide1
  1. The brand’s promise sets up the positioning and comes directly out of the idea you have for your brand.  You have to focus on a key target with one main benefit you offer.  Brands need to be either better, different or cheaper.  Or else not around for very long.  “Me-too” brands have a short window before being squeezed out.  How relevant, simple and compelling the brand positioning is impacts the potential love for the brand. Force yourself to find that point of difference, and balance the rational and emotional benefits in your promise.  Even if you feel the desire to start with a rational promise, wrap it in an emotional package.   And as your brand strengthens, layer in more and more emotion.   But even at the most emotional stage of a brand, back it up with rational thoughts.  It’s about balance.  People will stay loyal, pay higher prices and follow a brand they are connected with.  More and more, brands are leveraging purpose (the why) into their brand promise, because people buy why you do it, more than just want you do.  Push yourself to make your promise the same as why you get up in the morning and you’ll make a fortune. 
  2. The strategic choices that brands make can make a world of difference.  Slide1Most brands get stuck in thinking 3 months ahead.   They miss out on the bigger picture of where you want to be in 5-10 years.  To figure out where you want to go starts with where you are today.  Map out what’s getting in your way and let those define your strategies.   Identifying where the brand is on the Brand Love Curve (see above) helps focus your choice in strategies as you want to look for ways that tighten the connection with consumers.   Bring an ROI mindset, with a pathway that has a focus, early win and a leverage to a gateway to something bigger.  
  3. Beloved brands can tell the brand story through five types of media:  Paid (traditional and digital advertising) earned (PR, news, events, influencers) search (Search Engine Optimization), social media (facebook, twitter, linked in) and home (website, blog, e-commerce).  Beloved Brands find creative ways use each of these media choices to enable your brand to connect emotionally with consumers and they have a bit of magic to the communication.  Great advertising helps to separate the brand from the pack, telling the brand promise in a compelling and relevant way.  
  4. The most beloved brands have a freshness of innovation, staying one-step ahead of the consumers–giving them something they’d never have imagined.  Having a steady stream of new products helps keep the consumer excited about the brand.  The idea of the brand helps acting as an internal beacon to help frame the R&D.  Every new product has to back that idea.  At Apple, every new product must deliver simplicity and at Volvo, it must focus on safety. 
  5. The most beloved brands create an experience that over-delivers the promise.  How your culture and organization are set up can make or break that experience.  Hiring the best people, creating service values that employees can deliver against and having processes that eliminate service leakage.  The culture attacks the brand’s weaknesses and fixes them before the competition can attack.  With a Beloved Brand, the culture and brand become one.

Slide1

The Most Beloved Brands Are Strong on All 5 Sources of Connectivity

 

To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  3. Consumer Insights:  To get richer depth on the consumer, read the following story by clicking on the hyper link:  Everything Starts and Ends with the Consumer in Mind

 

Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

 

Pick your Social Media vehicle and follow us by clicking on the icon below

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To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.

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How to Drive Innovation into Your Brand

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Patent Office,  1899

Brand LeadershipWhile that quote from 114 years ago may have missed out on the airplane, radio, TV, microwave, car, computer, internet, nearly every cpg product and of course my beloved iPhone.  Maybe the sentiment of the quote was just about 100 years too early.  In the last decade, most of the great innovation has been relegated to social media and electronics.  I hope this century brings us much more than just Facebook, BBM and Twitter.  In the consumer goods area, we must be on the 197th version of “new” cherry flavoured bubble gum since 1955, we’ve now seen hundreds of “new” peach yoghurt and I hope I never see another “new” laundry soap telling us that their little blue beads get their clothes really clean.  

Generating Love for the Brand

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

  1. The brand’s promise sets up the positioning, as you focus on a key target with one main benefit you offer.  Brands need to be either better, different or cheaper.  Or else not around for very long.  “Me-too” brands have a short window before being squeezed out.  How relevant, simple and compelling the brand positioning is impacts the potential love for the brand.
  2. The most beloved brands create an experience that over-delivers the promise.  How your culture and organization are set up can make or break that experience.  Hiring the best people, creating service values that employees can deliver against and having processes that eliminate service leakage.  The culture attacks the brand’s weaknesses and fixes them before the competition can attack.  With a Beloved Brand, the culture and brand become one.
  3. Brands also make focused strategic choices that start with identifying where the brand is on the Brand Love Curve going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and all the way to Beloved status.   Marketing is not just activity, but rather focused activity–based on strategy with an ROI mindset.  Where you are on the curve might help you make strategic and tactical choices such as media, innovation and service levels.
  4. The most beloved brands have a freshness of innovation, staying one-step ahead of the consumers.  The idea of the brand helps acting as an internal beacon to help frame the R&D.  Every new product has to back that idea.  At Apple, every new product must deliver simplicity and at Volvo, it must focus on safety.  .
  5. Beloved brands can tell the brand story through great advertising in paid media, through earned media either in the mainstream press or through social media.  Beloved Brands use each of these media choices to connect with consumers and have a bit of magic to their work.

 

New Products can help separate a brand as well as keep it fresh.  For a Beloved Brand, freshness is essential in attacking your own brand before someone can attack you.  New products that truly solve a consumer problem in a unique way are rare.  This is the generation of marketing incrementalism.  On most brand plans I see “launch innovative new products”  sits comfortably in the #3, 4 or 5 slot on the plan, while #1 is fix the advertising and #2 is get more distribution.  

Stages of Innovation

There are four key stages to innovation:  1) Invention 2) Differentiation 3) Experience and 4) Perception.  And the marketing is different at each phase.

Stage 1: Invention of the Core Product:  The challenge of a truly new product is to finding something that is truly different: a new technology, delivery, format or process.   Rarely, do we get to work on a game changing “invention”.  
Stage 1 of a new product usually focuses all of their efforts on launching and explaining why it is needed.  The product at this stage is usually just the core product, not yet perfected, higher costs and limited sales with no profits.   The advertising is about awareness and the message is simple:  you have this problem, we solve that problem.   There’s an effort to the distribution, because many customers are risk averse and afraid of new products.   Consumers are willing to pay a little more to solve the problem, they overlook all the flaws and limitations, and they think “why didn’t I think of this”.  While some consumers love the new product already, most consumers still sit at the sceptical and indifferent stage.  

Stage 2: Product Proliferation means Differentiation:  With a little bit of success in the market comes copy cats.  With more consumers buying, there becomes room for some differentiation, but mostly limited to product still:  new features and added services on top of the core product.  They might have found a way to make things cheaper, easier to use or better tasting.  Prices come down and brands offer more variety.  Distribution becomes a battle ground and getting full distribution becomes the goal.  Customers try to line up behind certain brands–looking for preferential treatment.  The advertising is about consideration and purchase, trying to stake out certain spaces, shifting from product to brand and separating your brand from others. Brands now sell the solution, not just the product.  And consumers start to choose, one brand over another.  While some consumers prefer one brand over another, most consumers are at the like it stage.

Stage 3: It’s all about the Experience:  In order to establish leadership or challenge for leadership, brands begin to talk about the experience consumers will have with their product.  It becomes no longer about the brand or product but about the consumer and how your brand fits into their life.  Brands look to use positioning strategies to separate themselves, focusing on key targets, with unique benefits–a balance of emotional and rational benefits.  Advertising brings the consumer front and centre, trying to establish a routine with your brand in it.  Brands try to move to the love it stage, some do, but most will be stuck still at the like it stage.  Those that get stuck are forced into value and focusing on price, promotions or value.  The brands that reach the love it stage can command a premium, drive share  and establish leadership in the category.

Stage 4:  Managing the Perception:  As the market matures, any share point movements become difficult to gain any traction on real quality so the shift moves to perceived quality.  Strategy shifts to brand personality where tone and manner in the execution are paramount so that Consumers connect with the brand and begin to see themselves in the brand.   Brands push to become a Beloved Brand, where demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings and Consumers become outspoken fans.  The brand becomes powerful, with power over distribution because consumers would switch stores before they switch brands and power over competitors who are stuck trying to establish their own point of difference.  Profits are at their highest–revenue, margins are both strong and spending is focused and efficient on maintaining the relationship.  While at the top of the mountain, with firm leadership in the category, the brand is always at risk of losing that leadership.  Challenge yourself to continuously stay at the top.  Avoid becoming complacent.

Ask Gap Clothing, Cadillac, IBM computers, Levis, Sony or Kodak who have each reached the Beloved Stage only to be replaced by new products and brands and moved back down the love curve towards Indifferent.  Most recently, Blackberry.  Only 18 months ago, people jokingly used the term “crackberry” to describe their addictions.  No longer.

The four stages can easily be matched up to the Brand Love Curve and help establish strategic focus for the brand.  At the Invention stage, consumers remain indifferent until you build awareness and explain how your product solves a problem in my life.  At the Differentiation stage, some like it, but you are now facing proliferation and attack forcing your brand to stake out a claim.  At the experience stage, you need to become part of your consumers life and balance the emotional and rational benefits that can move you to the love it stage.  And finally, you have to tightly manage the Perceptions to become that Beloved Brand for Life stage, it’s about connecting with consumers so they see themselves through your brand.   You need to establish your personality and begin to wield the power of being a Beloved Brand.

But be careful: Without Innovation, very few brands remain at the top for very long.   

To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

For a presentation on how to write a Positioning Statement, follow:

Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits

 

Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

 

Pick your Social Media vehicle and follow us by clicking on the icon below

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To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.

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How to give Feedback on Advertising Copy

BBI Learning LogoIn a previous article, I wrote about How to Judge Advertising, trying to help Brand Leaders separate the Good ads from the Bad.  Click here to read: Judging Advertising Copy    This is a follow-up article to help outline how a Brand Leader should deliver the feedback, which is almost as important as the judging of the Advertising itself.

I come at this discussion from the client side.  I’ve never worked at an agency in my life.  But I have 20 years of CPG experience and have been in the shoes of the Brand Leader at every level.  I feel comfortable to say that most Clients don’t know how to give effective feedback to an Agency.   I’ve seen 10 people show up where they all talk and no decisions are made.   I’ve seen 10 show up and no one says a word, all looking miserable.  They say nothing and then email their feedback 5 days later.  I’ve seen Brand Leaders writing copy and tag lines, moving photos around, adding demos and even suggesting what songs to add to make the spots great.  And with modern social media campaigns, it’s becoming a mess of what people do on their own social media accounts.  The lack of fundamentals in giving feedback that links back to the strategy is getting worse, not better.   

A great Brand Leader should have more questions than answers.  They should be able to uncover problems better than they figure out solutions.  And they should respect the expertise of those they hire to tell the story of their brand.    

When seeing new Advertising Copy, a Brand Leader can really only do three things: 1) Approve the Ad 2) Reject the Ad or 3) Give direction on how to make the Ad better.  Even if you like an Ad, it’s rare that you will approve it outright.  Slide1I know Creative Teams wish we did, but it’s just not a reality.  Yes, the client feedback can help great ads get even better.  If you dislike an Ad, I say you have to kill it.  There’s no value in making an Ad you don’t like–even if it tests well.  I know not everyone will buy this.  But if you don’t love it, you won’t fight for its life, you won’t live and breathe the spot and you won’t put your heart and soul into it.  So why bother approving it.  

If you don’t love the work you do, then how do you expect the consumer to love your brand?  If you are satisfied with OK, my only regret is that I’m not competing with you.  

Advertising is Really “In the Box” Thinking

The best Advertising people are problem solvers, not blue sky “out of the box” dreamers.  They are “in the box” thinkers who are motivated by the challenge of the problem, more than the execution of some simple solution.  Big creative ideas can come from a tightly defined problem.   Checklist-icon The role of the Creative Brief is to create the right “box”, with enough room to move, but enough direction that defines the problem and challenges the Creative Team to solve it.  Advertising is a creative expression of the Brand Strategy, helping to bring the Brand’s Promise to life in the form of a story.  Great Advertising rarely comes from a blank canvass supplied by a confused client.

Getting Great Advertising is a Balance between Freedom and Control.  Most Brand Leaders allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative.  It seems odd because it should be the reverse.   Brand Leaders should control the Strategy and give up a bit of freedom on the Execution.  

A Good Creative Brief Should Be Brief, Not Long!  There should be one objective, one target, one main benefit and two main reasons to believe (RTB’s).  Agencies that want a long list of RTB’s want to take the strategic control away from you, so that they can provide options at the Creative Meeting.   Yes, it would be easier for the Agency to make Ads with that option, but you’d be letting the creative dictate your strategy rather than your strategy dictating your ad.  Creative Teams don’t want endless streams of data.   They don’t want so many options built into a brief, that they don’t know where to start.  Giving information “just in case” is confusing for them.  They need focus in order to deliver great work for you.  The smaller the brief, the bigger the ideas.

Brand Leaders should never let their Agency present “strategic” options at a Creative Meeting.  The Creative Meeting should only have creative solutions that answer the strategic problem.      That’s part of the whole flaw in why writing a really thick brief is a bad thing.   More on writing a Creative Brief at: How To Write a Creative Brief

Now Here’s the Odd Part to Feedback

How you treat your agency is crucial.  When you TELL an Agency exactly what to do, there is only one answer:  YES.  But when you ASK them what to do, you might hear:  YES, NO or MAYBE.  It also allows the agency to do what it does best, which is solving problems.  Not taking notes.  Brand Leaders should judge the advertising and then challenge the agency by always talking in terms of problems that they can solve.  

Slide1

I realize that not everyone will get this.  The dance I am about to teach you will help separate the great Brand Leaders from the bad.  I’m going to give it a shot.  If you buy into the premise above that creative people are “in the box” thinkers, who are motivated by solving problems then don’t use your feedback to give them the answers that will actually de-motivate them.  Instead, give your comments in a way that creates a new problem for them to solve.  Since the brief put them “in a box”, now the feedback should really be creating a “new box” for them to figure out.  Just don’t give them the answers. 

If you frame it in the form of a problem, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that the solution they come up with is way better than the one in your head right now.  They don’t want your solutions.  Instead of writing copy for them, say “I’m not sure the middle or the script is completely reflecting the insight”.   The Creative Team finds it de-motivating to be asked for their expertise (solving problems) and then not utilized (given the answer)

Stop writing copy.  I’ve never met a Brand Leader that was good at writing copy or figuring out the art direction.  Great Brand Leaders are great at figuring out the strategic problems.  Stick to that.  Let others you hire to figure out the solutions, actually figure out the solutions.  

Feedback At the Creative Meeting

The Creative Meeting is not Easy.  You’ve got to balance, the head, the heart and the gut against the good of the brand.  Take your time and sort it through asking the following questions:

  1. Do you love what it can do for your brand?  If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it?  A great ad has to have everyone’s heart and soul put into it.  If you “sorta like” it, then it will be “sorta ok” in the end.  If you love it, you will fight for it.  (The Heart) 
  2. Is it on strategy?  Is the Advertisement an expression of what you have been writing in your strategy documents?   Is it doing what we hoped it would do?  I love the ABCS technique (outlined below) because it helps me to frame things in my mind, so I can evaluate it past how I feel.  I think you need something to ground yourself.  (The Head)  If  there is something in your gut says it’s off, it likely is.  (The Gut)
  3. Is it long-term Idea?  Is a big enough idea that fits with the brand, does the hard work you want to do for the brand and can last 5 years.  Think about leaving a legacy—which forces you to think of campaign-ability.  (The Brand)  Look at the Creative Brief and if the ad is not on strategy, then it has to be rejected   Advertising is an expression of strategy.  If it’s not on strategy, it has no value.  

Slide1

As for the feedback, too many people sit there taking notes and never engaging with the agency.   Sadly, great jokes fall to the silence of the room creating the tension of a 11th grade Physics exam.  There should be 3 types of feedback:

  1. In the Middle of the Meeting, Talk Out Your First Impressions: During the presentation, it’s great to be engaged enough to say “I like that” or ask a question.   People forget this type of feedback.  You are allowed to talk.  A free-flowing meeting helps ease any tension in the room, and allows you to use your instincts a little more.  Don’t be afraid of voicing your first impressions, it doesn’t lock you in.  You can like something and still reject it because it’s off strategy.  
  2. End of Meeting “Big Picture” Direction:  Once all the work is presented, focus your comments on what‘s working and challenge the team to find ways to make it better. Focus more on the Scripts that you like first, and then move to the ones you don’t like.   Stay big picture–find that balance of instincts and strategy.  Avoid getting too wrapped into the details just yet.  
  3. The Day After Give Detailed Direction:  Take 24 hours to digest all the little details with fresh eyes and maybe more discussion.  Make sure it delivers the depths of brief–highlight any gaps you’re seeing in relation to the Creative Brief.  Does it fit the target, is the tone right, and are we sure it’s communicating the reason to believe?  You might have further details (copy points, placement, colours) to the next day.  The key is to let the agency know about the day after direction, so they can expect it.  
Who Speaks?  Everyone or Just One Person

I’m a big fan of huddling as a Brand team and then giving one piece of feedback.  The agency walks away with consolidated thoughts rather than a mess of comments they have to clean up.  Having the Agency walk away with one message is more important than everyone on the Brand team getting a chance to voice their opinions.  

From a client vantage, I’ve worked with both “taking the break” and “giving feedback live”.  My preference is the break.  It enables you to take your time and give clear aligned direction.  Even with many years of experience, and being a fairly intuitive marketer with a love for advertising–I still have a hard time giving feedback 30 seconds after seeing the last script.  While it’s good to get your instincts out, I guess my big question is “what’s the rush?”  We want to get to the best advertising, right?  We took months to figure out the insight, weeks to figure out the brief and gave the creative team a few weeks to write the scripts.  So why do we want to decide on the best Ad within moments after seeing the Scripts? 

Here’s the “Old School” process:
  1. A senior person on the Agency side starts off the meeting by saying “we are so excited”.  One of the Creative guys says something really positive about the brand they saw on shelf in the 3 weeks they were working on the spot.  
  2. The Account Team re-reads the brief at the start of the meeting.  Then the agency does a 5 minute set up of each board, explaining the technique/process (e.g. this is funny spot).  Set ups can taint or bias the client’s view of a spot.
  3. Agency presents 3-5 scripts, and says which one is their favourite or recommendation.  It’s potentially a de-motivator if you ask for their favourite and then you just dismiss it anyway.  Why bother?
  4. Client Feedback is given 15 seconds after the last script is presented, with the most junior person going first, all the way up to the senior person in the room.  This feels very 1950s humiliation and de-motivating to the junior people on the Brand team.  The account team takes notes, tries to figure out from the various comments what the final direction is.  The Brand Manager caves to the most senior person in the room.  Lots of polite passive-agressive behavior, but not sure of where to go next.    
New School Process for Giving Feedback:  

Take a 15-30 minute client huddle with just the Brand team in the room, so that they can align on the direction and then give the agency one piece of feedback.  Get rid of that polite passive-agressive behavior and have a great debate behind closed doors.  

It can help the overall process because:

  1. The Agency gets one piece of consolidated feedback.  They know exactly what they are going to do next.  The huddle allows the client to get their story straight. The break also helps to slow down process so the client can think things through.
  2. It Gives Ownership to the Brand Manager, who should do all the speaking on behalf of the team, not the most senior person in the room that over-rules them.  When I was in the senior marketing role, I’d let the Brand Manager do all the talking and at the end, I would just say “great job everyone and I’m looking forward to the next round”.  
  3. The break allows the Client Team to have a very open discussion, freely hearing out everyone’s thoughts, giving junior people easier input.  Have good rich debates to make sure you’re on strategy.  It allows the senior leader to coach the Brand Manager rather than publicly over-rule.  The Brand Manager hears everyone out and then consolidates it to one message.
Bit of Crazy Talk for You

It’s also time to get rid of the “reading of the Brief” and get rid of the 5 minute agency “set up” of each ad.  I know half of you will think this is crazy and likely none of you will do it.  Brand Leaders should be in the shoes of the consumer as they see the Advertising ideas.  And unless you are going to buy an ad right beside your ad, that explains your ad, then get rid of the set ups.  Instead, bring the brief, put it face down and only turn it over once you’ve seen all the work.  Plus, you should have your brief memorized.  It’s not that hard.  You only have one brief.  Remember, your brief is fairly short!!!

To see a training presentation on Getting Better Advertising

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

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

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Brand Management: How to Be a Great Brand Leader

Brand LeadershipIt seems that marketing these days is more about “doing” than it is about “thinking”.  

“Activity Based Marketing” has replaced strategic brand management. Marketers are content if they are doing something, regardless if it is the right something.  Everyone I interact with is too busy doing stuff, running from meeting to meeting, chasing the to do list.  Marketers today are so busy, that they don’t have time to think.  If you want to be a great marketer, you need to be carving out time to sit back in your chair and say “what’s next”.   

Are you Strategic?  

I know you want to say yes.  And I’m sure it’s on your Linked In profile.  So you must be.  But if you are doing more activity than you are doing the thinking, then you aren’t really operating strategically.  You are too busy chasing your own tail.  Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions.  They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out.  They reflect and plan before they act.   They are thinkers and planners who can see connections.   Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions.   They get to answers quickly, and will get frustrated in delays. They opt for action over thinking, believing that doing something is better than doing nothing. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks.  They can be frustrated by strategic thinkers.  Look back at the past week and ask “are you acting strategically?”

Are You a Fundamentally Sound Marketer?

No matter how bright you are, if you haven’t been properly trained, then you aren’t realizing your full potential.  You likely are struggling with writing your brand plan, you aren’t quite sure what has to go onto the creative brief and you aren’t sure how to give an agency feedback.  You’re not sure which media option makes the most sense for your brand.  These days, marketing has become a completely “on the job” training ground.  There’s very few fundamentals being taught.  You are given a desk and a brand and told that “we think marketers learn on the job” and “we think it’s your boss who should be teaching you”.  Since there has been a few generation of marketers who haven’t been trained, it’s very likely that your boss isn’t quite sure of the fundamentals of brand management.

If you are a bright, but you think you are lacking the fundamentals, you are not alone.    

Are you Running the Brand?  Do you act like an Owner?

Brand Manager has to have a mindset that reflects the CEO, accountable for growth, costs, profit and shareholder wealth.  A great marketer runs the brand, rather than letting the brand run them.  The starting ground for running the brand is to have your finger on the pulse of the brand and make sure everything revolves around that pulse.  Everything in the company should feed off the Brand DNA.  The Brand DNA (many call it the Brand Essence) is the most succinct definition of the Brand.  For Volvo, it’s Safety, while BMW might be Performance and Mercedes is Luxury.  The Brand’s DNA has an external and an internal.  Externally, you should be looking at the consumers’ view and the brand personality you’re trying to project outward to them.  Internally, the products and the internal brand beacon should help align everyone working on the brand.   

Slide1The classic role of Brand Management is that the Brand Leader is at the hub and everything revolves around that Brand Leader.   But in reality, they aren’t really revolving around the Brand Leader.  They are revolving around the Brand DNA and it’s just that the Brand Leader owns that DNA and uses it as a lens to judge all the activity around the Brand.   That is the starting point of strategy.

Everything Revolves around the Brand DNA

The Brand DNA should help frame 

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

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

Use the Brand Plan to Drive the Direction of the Brand

The planning area should help to frame the Brand Plan, which is a combination of a one year Brand Plan and a 3-5 year strategic plan.  The Vision and Mission provide the future direction, objectives align to the Business needs and Brand Funnel objectives and Strategies and Tactics help to drive towards those objectives.  Included as well should be a Calendar and Budgets.  For a tutorial on how to write a Brand Plan, click on the following link:  How to Write a Brand Plan

Plan 2.0

From the DNA, map out a positioning statement that can help frame the Marketing Communications plan.  That includes the creative big idea, the media mix, earned media (PR, Events) social media, key influencers (e.g. Doctors or Contractors or Bloggers).  As well, the positioning frames the identity which could include logo, language, look and feel and brand book.  My hope is that you don’t change this very often.   Looking at the complexity of the Brand Management system outlined here, it baffles me that Brands facing tough times reach for changing their logo so quickly when so many other factors could be driving the issues.  For a tutorial on writing Creative Briefs, click on:  How to Write an Effective Creative Brief

Staying on Strategy is just as Hard as Coming up with the Strategy 

If you don’t have time to think, then how do you know what you’re doing is the right thing to do?   The Go-To-Market plan should also feed off the Brand DNA and come out of the Brand Plan.  The Distribution strategy and needs should match up to the needs of the brand, including decisions around Key Account focus, pricing, sku mix, promotion and the possible role of new products.  In a fast-moving category like cereal or gum, or a high technology driving category like computers, phones or TVs, both share a high need for product innovation.  For brands that require in store selling, you should also include the In-store experience which could be demonstration, signage or trial as well as possible selling messages for sales people on the floor of the distribution channel.  These messages should feed directly from the brand messages.

The R&D plan should feed off the Brand DNA and develop products that match the brand.  Too many times, R&D is in their own world, trying to invent things that have nothing to do with where the brand sits.  They expect marketing to be able to sell their inventions.  Even in a technology driven business, Apple is driven first by the consumer.  Steve Jobs really understood that you don’t just sell what you have.

Brand also drives the Culture and the DNA should provide a beacon for the People to follow.  The brand story told within the company is even more important than what you might tell the market through your advertising.    Talent management means hiring the right people and providing the right training.   Too many companies are cutting back on training.   Remember that better people produce better work that drives better results.   Keep investing in your people and the business results will come.  Empower your people to get the most from their ideas.  Leverage values, inspirational touch points and processes to inspire and challenge them on achieving greatness.

Managing the Brand

Brand drives the Business Results.  Slide1 The more loved a brand, the more tightly the connection it has with their consumers.  This connection becomes a source of power that the brand can wield in the market to drive higher growth rate and profitability.   The Brand Leader is responsible for driving the P&L, driving sales and share, managing the forecast and costs for an efficiently run brand.  The Brand Leader must figure out the levers of the P&L it can use to drive more profits.  For a tutorial on driving profits through your brand, click on:  How to Drive Profits through Your Brand

Leading the Brand

Putting the Brand Leader front and centre will allow you to leverage the Brand DNA into each of the areas of your business, whether that’s marketing, sales, R&D, finance or human resources.  The Brand Leader should be at the centre of this hub, with each area looking to the Brand DNA as a beacon of how they can do their job most effectively in helping the brand drive long-term growth and profitability.

Here’s a robust summary on Brand Management that looks at it through 8 areas:  

      1. Beloved = Power = Growth = Profit
      2. Brand DNA and Vision
      3. Brand Promise
      4. Brand Analytics
      5. Brand Plan
      6. Execution
      7. Managing
      8. Leading

Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Manage Your Marketing Career  This looks at the four levels in marketing from ABM to Brand Manager to Director and up to VP of Marketing.  For each level it outlines the 5 things you need to master.   To read and even download the story, click on this hyperlink: How to Manage Your Career from ABM to CMO
  2. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits

Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

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To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.

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How to get an Assistant Brand Manager job

I got my first ABM job twenty years ago.  I remember how excited I was that first day and how frustrated I was the first few months at my true incompetence as I went through the Idiot Curve.  While things have changed tremendously over those twenty years, many of the same principles for landing that job remain the same.

To start with here is the job you’ll be Applying for How to a Great ABM   If that’s how you’ll be judged in the few months, than that’s how you’ll be judged in the Interview Process.

The first lesson I can tell you is 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.

In this article, it will be filled with my biases, but at least you’ll get a vantage from a former CPG executive who was heavily involved in the recruiting of ABMs.

How do I get in?

There are five ways you can get in:

  1. MBA:  This was the #1 source of our ABMs.  It gave us the chance to have a consistency in our recruiting efforts, allowed us to have a focused timing for the hiring and even a consistency in starting dates so we could measure and compare ABMs.  One of the silent secrets no one can say is that an MBA ensures that ABMs are late 20s, rather than 22–which makes it easier for them to work with the sales teams.  Now, people always ask me:  “Do I need an MBA?”  My answer is “No, but it sure helps”.  It allows you to be part of the formal recruiting process, get in front door and be judged by that very process, rather than just a one-off hiring manager who is in a panic and doesn’t know what they want.  My question to you is “Can you do an MBA?” because if you can, I’d recommend it.
  2. Head Hunter and Recruiters: This was our second source for ABMs, especially when we needed ABMs outside of the formal recruiting process.  There are some Headhunters that specifically fill ABM roles and you should make sure you are connected with them.   If you are lucky, you can get a head hunter who gives you tips on your resume or feedback on your interview.  Ask for the feedback.  Stay in touch regularly.
  3. Networking:  As the economy has gotten worse, some companies have cut back on the use of Head Hunters and opted for using a “finder’s fee” to employees that recommend someone. So if you can connect with ABMs that already work at the company, they have an incentive to actually get you hired.  The advantages to networking is they’ll tell you the hiring manager, process and interview tips.  They’ll also alert you to when someone quits.  I would recommend you write down the 10-20 companies you want to work for, and get networking with other ABMs, BMs or the HR manager.
  4. Experience in the Company: A generation ago, many started off in sales and then moved over to marketing.  It still can happen, but it’s becoming less common.    If you try this route, push to get over the marketing quickly so you don’t get stuck in a role you don’t want.
  5. Job Posting:  Don’t wait for the postings, or you’ll be missing out on most of the jobs.  The HR department puts up the job posting, either because the company has exhausted all other methods.  The posting doesn’t always mean there is a job, but HR using it to fill the resume bank.  The new method for hiring is to go on to Linked In and put “We are Hiring” in job groups.
The Interview Process

On 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?    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.
  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 Tim Tebow’s Agent, how would you maximize his value as a spokesperson?  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.

Best of luck to you, and go for it.  

 

Here’s a presentation on Successful Marketing Careers:  

Other Roles You May Be Interested In
  • 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
Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Monthly Report: One of the first tasks they assign the ABM is writing the monthly sales and share report.  Not only is a necessity of the business, but it’s your best training ground for doing a deep dive on analytics and strategic writing.   To read how to write a Monthly Report, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Monthly Report
  2. How to Write a Brand Positioning Statement.  Before you even get into the creative brief, you should be looking at target, benefits and reason to believe.   To read how to write a Brand Positioning Statement, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write an Effective Brand Positioning Statement
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits 

Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

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To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.

 

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Does a Brand Vision Statement Matter?

The Vision for the Toronto Maple Leafs

I love asking people “Do you think the Toronto Maple Leafs had a good year last year?”.  For non-hockey fans, the Leafs would be like the Chicago Cubs in baseball or  Aston Villa in the English Premier League.  My beloved Leafs are the only NHL team who has not made the playoffs since 2004, and they have not won a championship since 1967.  The last two seasons they finished 29th and 25th out of 30 teams.  That’s really pathetic.

So did the Leafs have a good year?   It depends on what you think the brand vision is?    If you think the Leafs Vision is to Win the Stanley Cup, then it’s been an obvious disaster.   But if you think the Leafs Vision is to be the Most Valued Sports Franchise, then it’s been an amazing year, just like the past 8 years.   In those eight years of hockey despair, overall revenue has gone up from $117 million to $190 million while costs have gone down from $69 million to $57 million.   That’s a P&L the people of Price Waterhouse dream about.  The resulting brand value has seen the Leafs go from $263 million in 2003 up to $521 million–making it the #1 value valued team in hockey.   Eight years of missing the playoffs and the value of the team has nearly doubled.  Instead of firing everyone, they should be handing out the bonus cheques.  They still have a long way to reach the NY Yankees Value of $2.2 Billion.  

Does a Vision Statement Pay Out?

Companies that have Vision Statements have a better sense of where they are going.  And the proof is there that it pays off for companies with a Vision.

  • Harvard Study across 20 industries looking at businesses showed that companies with Vision Statements saw their revenue grew more than four times faster; job creation was seven times higher; their stock price grew 12 times faster; and profit performance was 750% higher.
  • Newsweek looked at 1000 companies with Vision Statements had an average return on stockholder equity of 16.1%, while firms without them had only a 7.9% average return.
  • “Built to Last” showed that for companies with Vision Statements, that a $1 investment in 1926 would have returned $6,350 compared to only a return of $950 for comparable companies without a Vision.
The Vision and Mission help to Frame the Overall Brand Plan

Think of the Vision as the End in Mind Achievement towards your purpose.  What do you want the brand to become?  Think 10 years out: if you became this one thing, you would know that you are successful.  Ideally it is Qualitative (yet grounded in something) and quantitative (measurable)  It should be motivating and enticing to get people focused.   It should be personal and speak to why you get up in the morning—why you got into this business.

The Mission is the Special Assignment.  It should be tightly connected to the vision, but is more likely a 1-3 year direction—if a vision is a destination, then a mission is the how or the major milestone on the path towards that vision. A mission statement focuses on a company’s present state while a vision statement focuses on a company’s future.

Things that Make a Good vision: 

  1. Easy for employees and partners to understand and rally around
  2. Think about something that can last 5-10 years or more
  3. Balance between aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement)
  4. It’s ok to embed a financial ($x) or share position (#1) element into it as long as it’s important for framing the vision.

The watch outs for vision statements:

  1. It’s not a positioning statement.  Almost positioning neutral  Let the positioning come out in the strategy.
  2. Make sure we haven’t achieved it already.  If you are #1, then don’t put “be #1″.
  3. Don’t put strategic statements.  Vision answers “where could we be” rather than “how can we get there”
  4. Try to be single-minded:  Tighten it up and don’t include everything!!   Can you say it in an elevator.  Can you actually remember it?  Can you yell it at a Sales meeting?
Purpose Driven Visions:  The Power of Why

More companies are reaching for their purpose answering the simple question:  “why do we do what we do”.  Why do you exist?  What’s your Purpose or Cause?  Start with what’s in you.  Why do you wake up in the morning or why did you start this company long ago?     Simon Sinek, the Author “The Power of Why” says the most successful brands start with a purpose driven vision (why) and match the strategies (how) and the execution (what) to the vision.

Using the Apple brand as an example, Sinek talks about the “Why” for Apple as challenging the status quo, and thinking differently.  People at Apple want to make a dent in the universe.  The “How” is making sure our products are all beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.  Since people buy into the why and the how of Apple and want to be a part of it, it matters less “What” they do and they’ll follow them as they move to new categories.  As Sinek says “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.

Vision and Employees

A well-articulated vision can really make a difference for employees, giving them both a challenge and focus to what they do each day.  For service driven companies, where people are the brand it becomes essential.  Adding in brand values and even service values can assist people in knowing what they should be doing each day and how they should be doing it.  For a product driven brand, it can help all drive focus for all those working around the brand whether that’s ad agencies, R&D, sales or operations.

To see how a Brand Vision helps to frame the brand plan, read the following presentation: 

 

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

To see the training presentations, visit the Beloved Brands Slideshare site at: http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations

If you or team has any interest in a training program, please contact me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

 

About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth.  To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

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How to Get Fired as a Brand Manager

BBI Learning LogoThere’s been a lot of great Assistant Brand Managers to be 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 address 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. Slide1They 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. ambiguity_road_signBrand 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. Slide1They 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.  

Use this list to ensure that you will be a successful Brand Manager career.
Ask Beloved Brands how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.
Read more about marketing careers in the following presentation:
 
 

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

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

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