Tag Archive: manager

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.

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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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How to go Deeper on the Analysis of your Brand

Brand LeadershipToo many times, marketers come to conclusions based on pure instincts and put them forward to their management team and the set of peers who might agree or disagree.  The problem with instincts is that because it’s really just an opinion, with nothing to substantiate it.  And even if you are right, you’ll have a hard time convincing others, so anyone with a counter view, retains their own opinion and the team remains divided.  Even if they go along with it, they remain a quiet dissenter just waiting for it to fail and waiting to say “I told you so”.

When you don’t go deep on your thinking, I call it surface thinking.  I equate “surface thinking” to “surface cleaning”.  When your mother is coming over to visit in half an hour, you “surface clean” by quickly take everything and jam into the drawers or closets where she won’t be able to see.  You never really clean up. The same thing holds with “surface thinking”.  Yes, you think, but it stays at the opinion level.   You don’t dig in to the data, you don’t listen to others or go do the necessary research to back up your opinion.  You never really go deep enough to uncover the deep rich insightful conclusions.  And everyone knows it. 

Opinions are great.  Every leader should have one and be able to articulate their views.  But it’s best when you can layer it in fact.  One good rule for communicating your opinion is something I learned in my first year Logic class:  Premise, Premise, Conclusion.  Try it out, next time you’re engaged in debate.  Just make sure the premise is backed by fact.      

So what happens when you just do “surface thinking”:
  1. The programs bomb, and because you don’t know what elements of the program really failed, you throw out the entire program—the strategy was wrong, the tactics didn’t do what you hoped, the goals weren’t set up right and even the agency did a bad job.  You throw it all out, and might even fire the agency.
  2. There’s management doubt from your boss and your peers.  They can clearly see you don’t go deep, so they remain unconvinced or even confused.  They might confront you with their own opinion, but then we just end up with two talking heads that refuse to go deep.  But, to protect themselves against a strategy they aren’t quite sure of, they subconsciously short-change you on investment or even on support from their team. 
  3. When you just operate at the surface level, when you’re debating a topic, instead of the team going deep and seeking out real and rich facts to support one side or the other, the conversation moves sideways instead of deep.  What you’ll notice is you’ll be talking about distribution at the surface level, and because no one in the room wants to  go deep, they say “well what about the new cheery flavor, I took it home and my wife didn’t like it, are we sure it’s going to work” or “this new golf shirt for the sales meeting is very cool, I want one of these puppies”.    The leadership team spins, round and round, never diving deep enough to solve the issues, just casually moves on to new issues.   This is how bad decisions or no decisions get made. 
How to go Deeper

The best way go deep on your analysis, ask “so what does that mean” at least five times and watch the information gets richer and deeper. 

Slide1

Looking at the Gray’s Cookie example above, intuitively, it makes sense that going after Health Food Stores could be one option put on the table.  But to say you need to be better, without digging in remains an unsubstantiated opinion.   As you dig deeper, you see that going after Health Food stores, who are highly independent is labor intensive and the payback is just not there.  Yes, you’re way under-developed.  But it’s more expensive than other options.  When you bring the option of going after mass into the mix, which is head office driven, you start to see a higher return on the investment.  This is just a fictional example, but look how the thinking gets richer at each stage.  Force yourself to keep asking “so what does this mean” or “why” pushing the analysis harder and harder. 

Thinking Time Questions that will Help you Go Deeper

The first analysis is “What do we know?” with 5 key questions to help you sort through your analysis:

  1. What do we know?  This should be fact based and you know it for sure.
  2. What do we assume?  Your educated/knowledge based conclusion that helps us bridge between fact, and speculation.
  3. What we think?  Based on facts, and assumptions, you should be able to say what we think will happen.
  4. What do we need to find out?  There may be unknowns still.
  5. What are we going to do?  It’s the action that comes out of this thinking.

It forces you to start grouping your learning, forces you to start drawing conclusions and it enables your reader to separate fact (the back ground information) from opinion (where you are trying to take them)

The second type of analysis is “Where are we?” with 5 key questions to help you sort through your analysis:

  1. Where are we?
  2. Why are we  here? 
  3. Where could we be?
  4. How can we get there?
  5. What do we need to do to get there?

These questions help frame your thinking as you go into a Brand Plan.  The first question helps the analysis, the second with the key issues, the third frames the vision and objectives, the fourth gets into strategy and tactics and the fifth gets into the execution.  My challenge to you:  update it every 3-6 months, or every time you do something major.  You’ll be surprised that doing something can actually impact “where are we?” on the analysis.  

The Deeper the Thinking, the Smarter the Leader

 

To read more on How to Analyze Your Brand, read the presentation below:

 
 
Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Positioning Statement.  Before you even get into the creative brief, you should be looking at target, benefits and reason to believe.   To read how to write a Brand Positioning Statement, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write an Effective Brand Positioning Statement
  3. 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 Run a Brainstorm Session

“Creativity is intelligence having fun”  Albert Einstein

Brand LeadershipBrainstorming should be a Regular Part of running your Brand.

To stay in a healthy creative space, I would suggest that each brand team should be having some type of brainstorm (big or small) once a month.  You need a constant influx of ideas–promotions, advertising, social media, naming, new products, events, PR, saving money and of course as part of your brand planning,  They can be a quick 30 minutes as part of a weekly meeting just to get some quick ideas or a whole afternoon to solve a problem that’s been nagging at the group.   Or a team building offsite meeting that goes all day. 

There are advantages to having regular brainstorms:

  • Team will stay fresh and open.  Brand jobs can eat you up, forecasting, deadlines, reports can all make you stale.  Having regular intervals of ideation, helps to disrupt the work flow to motivate and engage the team.
  • Keeps the best ideas near the surface.  At the end of a good brainstorm, you have some great ideas that bubble up, not all of which you can immediately use.  These ideas tend to keep coming up, and that’s OK  Sometimes they are rejected because they are higher risk or resource dependent.  But after a few sessions of getting comfortable with these ideas, you might start to see new ways to make them do-able instead of seeing why they can’t happen.slide125
  • As the Leader of the team, it sends the message that while we are strategic, we win by being more creative, faster, and better on execution. It’s so easy to get stiffer as you move up the career ladder and be the one on the team finding fault with every idea.  Just because you are starting to know right from wrong, doesn’t mean you need to crush every idea.  Having the brainstorming forum allows the newly experienced brand people the chance to bring ideas forward and it sends the signal that you are an open leader and you value the opinions of your junior staff.
  • The process the team learns doing the brainstorms becomes part of their everyday job.   Even on small problems, they’ll come up with a list of possible solutions, use some criteria to judge, narrow down the list to the best idea, and then be prepared with their recommendation.  They’ll be able to show their leader they’ve looked at the issue from all sides, and considered other ideas.  Marketers that fixate on one solution to fix the problem tend to fail more than succeed.
The Warm Up

Every session should have a warm up, either 5 minutes or 15 minutes. It gets people out of the rut of the day-to-day, and opens up the brains.  imagesOne that I’ve used is this very simple innocent photo of the kids selling Lemonade and ask them to come up with as many ideas as they can to the question of “What ways can these two make more money?”.  I offer a reward of cookies to the team with the most ideas and to the best idea.   In 5 minutes, teams should be able to list 50 or 100 ideas.  Gets out of a lot of crap ideas but it gets rid of them rejecting ideas before saying them.   To get to 100, you have to listen to the group and build on someone’s idea.  Eliminate the “yeah but….”   I get them to circle the top 3 ideas for each group, which forces them to get used to making decisions.  One observation I’ll usually make is that the best ideas are usually found in the list beyond 20 or even beyond the 50 mark, emphasizing that you need 100 good ideas to get to 5 great ideas.

Draw out the rule that “AVOID THE YEAH BUT…” because we have a process for ideating and one for making decisions.  With a bunch of leaders in the room, normally you have to re-assure them that they should trust the process.  The alternative to the “yeah but” is building on the idea with “here’s a different take”.

The trick to a good brainstorm is very simple:   Diverge, Converge, Diverge Converge.
Diverge #1:

Divide the room up into groups of 5-7 people.   I prefer to assign one leader who will be writing the ideas, pushing the group for more, throwing in some ideas of their own. A great way for the leader is to say “here’s a crazy idea, who can build on this or make it better”.  But if you catch the leader stalling, debating the ideas, then you should push that leader.  At this stage you are pushing for quantity not quality.  If you have multiple groups in the room, do a rotation where the leader stays put and the group changes.  I like having stations, where each station has a unique problem to solve.

Converge #1:

There’s a few ways you can do this.

  • You can use voting dots where each person gets 5 or 10 dots and they can use them any way they want.  For random executional ideas, this is a great simple way.
  • If there is agreed upon criteria, you can do some type of scoring against each criteria.  High, medium, low.
  • USP 2.0If you are brainstorming product concepts or positioning statements, you might want to hold them up to the lens of how unique they are.
  • For things like naming, positioning or promotions, the leader can look at all the ideas and begin grouping them into themes.  They might start to discuss which themes seem to fit or are working the best, and use those themes for a second diverge.
  • For Tactics to an annual plan, you can use a very simple grid of Big vs Small and Easy vs Difficult.  In this case, you want to find ways to land in THE BIG EASY.  The reason you want easy is to ensure it has a good return on effort, believing effort and investment have a direct link.  

Slide1

Diverge #2

The second diverge is where the magic actually happens.  You’ve got the group in a good zone.   They have seen which ideas are meeting the criteria.  Take the list from Converge #1 and push it one more time.  Make it competitive among the groups, with a $25 prize, so that people will push even harder.  

  • If you narrowed it to themes, then take each theme and push for more and better ideas under each of the themes  
  • If you looked at concepts or tactics, then take the best 8-10 ideas and have groups work on them and flush them out fully with a written concept, and come back and present them to the group.  
  • If using the grid above, then take the ideas in the big/difficult and brainstorm ways to make it easier.   And if it’s small and easy, brainstorm ways to make it bigger.
Converge #2:  Decision Time

Once you’ve done the second diverge, you’ll be starting to see the ideas getting better and more focused.  Now comes decision time.  You can narrow down to a list of ideas to take forward into testing or discussion with senior management.  You can take them forward to cost out.  You can prioritize them based on a 12 or 24 month calendar.   You can vote using some of the techniques above using voting dots.  Or you can assign a panel of those who will vote.  But you want to walk away from the meeting with a decision.

Turn the Idea into a Project

Trust that the process gets you into the right zone and make these ideas now a project.Once you have a decision on the best ideas, you want to use the energy and momentum in the room to make the ideas  a reality:

  • assign an owner and support team
  • get them to agree upon goals, issues to resolve
  • get them to map out a timeline (milestones)
  • outline potential resource needs (budget, people, outside agencies)

Let Brainstorming bring an energy and passion into your work.

“Love what you do”  Steve Jobs

 

 

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. 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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