Tag Archive: marketing manager

5 Crucial Career Questions to Ask yourself in the most honest soul-searching start to what’s next

Slide1Too many brilliant Brand Leaders forget to apply the same fundamental principles of Branding to themselves. It seems that at the senior levels (Director, VP) while we are at the most vulnerable part of our career, we become a bit complacent. Having been in the job market, having seen many peers going through dramatic job and life changes, I continue to see great Brand Leaders do a bad job marketing themselves. Before you do anything, you should assess your situation by asking some of the toughest questions:

  1. Within your current company, how high up do you think you can realistically go?  Be very honest. I’ve always believed that by your 40th birthday, you might have peaked or at best have one more level left to climb. Yes, there are exceptions, but you can’t plan to be one of the exceptions. The problem is that once you have peaked, how long do you realistically think you can remain successful within your current company, before you get squeezed out.  And you might want to proactively take action at 45, rather than reactively be forced to take action at 55.  
  2. Should you stay in the same industry or look at new verticals?  If you’re in CPG, Brand Management still has the power to drive the brands you work on. But once you leave CPG, marketing’s role gets diminished, usually becoming a marketing communications function–either communicating the product innovation or service, which as a Marketer you might have little control over. With less control over the pure direction of the business or even brand, marketing becomes a bit more of a do-er support function who explains what has already been done by the brand, rather than a strategic marketer who leads the business. What you’ll also find is that as you move out of CPG, the talent levels that will fall under you goes down considerably. And then you have to jump in, going lower than you are used to in prior CPG roles.  
  3. Should you stay in pure Brand Management or venture into a subject-matter expert type roles? This is one of the harder decisions you will make, because once you make it, you might not be able to turn back. It is human nature to want to label people–and this is one of the struggles you will face in managing your career, especially if you become a Subject Matter Expert. If you move out of Brand Management, and it doesn’t work out, it might be harder to convince future employers that you are still a generalist who can drive their brands.  
  4. How long do you want to keep working?  As you get older, you’ll have to start asking this. Part of this decision will depend on your own personal finances and your family situation. When I was 25, I would have hoped I’d retire at 55 on an island.  But at 45, I found myself asking “so what do I want to do for the next 15 years?”  I had no clue of the answer.  And it was scary.   
  5. Do you stay an employee or do you take this moment to leap out on your own? If most marketing careers peak in your 40s, still being an employee at 50 puts you at risk of being laid off by a 38-year-old one day. As we get older, you will find that it becomes harder to sit through a performance review. Being on your own gives you a certain power to be your own boss. I went out on my own a few years ago and love it.  But when anyone asks me if they should, my immediate reaction is to say “that it’s not for everyone”. I want to make sure you are serious about it, and not getting me to try to talk you into it. It will be you who has to jump off the cliff.  I still remember the phone call with my wife, where I told her about 10 times “I’m going to do it”. I was more preparing myself for it, than telling her. It can feel very risky but once you realize that you are betting on yourself you will know you can do it. The lifestyle is great, but you’re on the clock 24/7.  And it can be a very lonely experience–which surprised an introvert like myself.  It took me 18 months to get used to the being alone feeling.

You have to answer these questions honestly before going out into the market, looking for a job. These answers help frame the strategy for the roles you’d consider. Think of these questions as a starting point to your Personal Branding.  To read more, including looking at a deep dive assessment of your personal situation and how to create your own Brand,  follow this Powerpoint presentation:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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Check List of 10 things that Great Advertising should do

When you are in the midst of an advertising project, and you’re feeling stuck as a Brand Leader use this simple check list to find out where things might be missing for you.  The best Advertising should do these 10 things: 

  1. Set Yourself Apart.  Beloved Brands must be different, better, cheaper or not around very long.   The story telling of the brand’s promise should help to separate the brand from the clutter of our minds. That starts with creative that feels different and makes the brand seem different. 
  2. Focused!   A focused target, a focused message, a focused strategy against a focused communication idea and a focused media.  
  3. Keep the Idea and Communication very simple.  Communication is not what is said, but what is heard. Too many people try to shout as many messages as they can in one ad.  What the consumer hears:  a confusing mess or nothing really.  My challenge to you is to stand up on a chair and yell your main message as though you are standing on top of a mountain.  If you can’t YELL it out in one breath, then your idea is too complex.  The Volvo Brand Manager gets to yell “Safety” in one clean simple breath.   Can you do that?  
  4. Have a Good Selling Idea.  While big ideas break through, they also help you to be consistent, because you have to align your thinking to the Big Idea.  You’ll see consistency over time, across mediums–paid, earned, social and search, throughout the entire brand line up of sub brands.  Consumers will start to connect to the big idea
  5. Drive Engagement: Too many Brand Leaders get so fixated on saying their 7 messages that they figure the ability capture attention is just advertising fluff.  But it all starts with Attention.   The consumer sees 5,000 ads a day and will likely only engage in a handful.   If you don’t capture their attention, no one will remember the brand name, your main message or any other reason to believe you might have.
  6. Let the Visuals do the talking.  With so many ads, you need to have some visual that can capture the attention, link to your brand and communicate your message.   The ‘see-say’ of advertising helps the consumers brain to engage, follow along and remember.  As kids, we always love the pictures.  We still do.  
  7. Sell the solution, not your product.  People use brands to solve problems in their lives.  They’d prefer not to have that problem than have to buy your brand.  No one has ever wanted a quarter-inch drill, they just need a quarter-inch hole. 
  8. Be Relevant with the Consumer. A beloved brand finds a way to matter to those who really care. Not only the right brand promise but in the right communication of that promise. You can’t sell carpet cleaning to someone who just has hard wood floors.  
  9. Based on a consumer Insight.  Insights are not facts about your brand.  That’s just you talking AT the consumer.   Insights allow you to connect and turn the ad into a conversation.  Insights are something the consumer already knows but they didn’t realize that everyone felt that way.  Insights enable consumers to see themselves in the situation and once you do that, the consumers might then figure the brand must be for them.  
  10. Tell the story behind the brand.  Talk about your brand’s purpose.  Why did you start this brand?   What do you hope that the brand really does to help people?   Why do you get up in the morning.  

Advertising Sweet Spot when the Creative Idea drives the Attention, Branding, Communication and Stickiness

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

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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

Great Advertising comes from a Balance of Freedom and Control.  

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

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

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

A Good Brief Should Be Brief, Not Long!  

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

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

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

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

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

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Stop the BIG WIDE BRIEF and focus your Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nike “RE2PECT”

Gatorade “Made in New York”

 

Vote Below: 

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

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Focus is essential to Strategy 

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

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

When you focus, 5 things happen to your Brand.

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

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

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

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you one of the FAVORITE clients of your agency? 

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

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

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

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

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

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Apple Brand > Apple Product

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

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

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

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

Control the Strategy with a Tight Brief

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

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

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

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Give freedom on execution to your Agency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slide1Try to stop spinning by asking yourself four key questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 10 Reasons Brand Managers get fired


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

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

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

Top 10 Reasons why Brand Managers get fired:

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

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

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

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

To read a presentation on careers:

 

Articles on the Four Levels of Marketing

  • Assistant Brand Manager: It’s about doing; analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future. It’s not an easy job and only 50% get promoted to Brand Manager. To read a story on how to be successful as an ABM, click on the following hyper link: How to be a successful ABM
  • Brand Manager: It becomes about ownership and strategic thinking within your brand plan. Most Brand Managers are honestly a disaster with their first direct report, and get better around the fifth report. The good ones let the ABM do their job; the bad ones jump in too much, frustrated and impatient rather than acting as a teacher. To read about being a successful Brand Manager, read: How to be a successful Brand Manager
  • Marketing Director: It’s more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing. Your role is to set the standard and then hold everyone to that standard. To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best. Let your best people shine, grow and push you. Follow this hyper link to read more: How to be a successful Marketing Director
  • VP Marketing or CMO: It’s about leadership, vision and getting the most from people. If you are good at it, you won’t need to do any marketing, other than challenging and guiding your people to do their best work. You have to deliver the results, and very few figure out the equation that the better the people means the better the work and in the end the better the results. Invest in training as a way to motivate your team and keep them engaged. Use teaching moments to share your wisdom. Read the following article for how to be a success: How to be a Successful VP of Marketing

 

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How to best Execute your Brand Execution Plan

Brand LeadershipIf you are getting tired of me saying “FOCUS” then you might want to stop reading.  I’m not quite getting tired of saying it just yet.  I’ve talked about focusing on a target, a single benefit when we went through brand positioning and creative briefs. I’ve talked about ONE big idea that the brand can stand for. I’ve talked about focused strategies when it comes time to annual brand plans and brand strategy road maps.  I’ve even talked about focused media when it comes time to communication plans.  

FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS!!!

So now as we move on to the execution plan, should we still focus?   Of course.  As you execute, you are constrained by 3 things, time: people and money.  

My challenge to all brand leaders looking at an Annual Brand Plan is to pick 3 strategies and 3 tactics per strategy.   That means 9 things to do really well.  Sounds kind of crazy right?  It gets crazier when I tell you to put 50 to 75% of your resources to the 3 most important tactics overall.  If you have 7 strategies and 7 tactics per strategy, then you’re now doing 49 things compared to my 9 things.  If I asked you to pick your most important 9, and we compared how good of a job we both did on executing, then I believe my 9 would kick your 9’s ass.  In fact, there’s a good chance your team hasn’t gotten to 1 or 2 of your most important 9. When it comes time to execution, focus means I can do a better job, bring some passion and magic to each tactic.  Focus means impact, because I am able to put enough resources against it to be noticed and that impact might be the start of me driving a return on investment.

I once had a Director working for me that kept generating so many ideas that none of them ever got executed.  Every day, 5 new ideas for his team to look into.  The team was in chaos and ready for revolt.  So I asked to see his quarterly project list and he came in proudly showing me 81 projects they had to do in the next 12 weeks.  I was dumbfounded and said “narrow it down to the top 5 most important projects”.  He said “they are all important”.  About an hour later I had his finance director in my office telling me that he was overspent by 20%.  While I couldn’t convince him to focus, he didn’t survive the quarter.

Every day I must tell at least 5 people they need to focus more.

Beloved Brands Start with a Big Idea

The most beloved brands are based on an idea that is worth loving. It is the idea that connects the Brand with consumers.  And under the Brand Idea are 5 Sources of Connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including 1) the brand promise 2) the strategic choices you make 3) the brand’s ability to tell their story 4) the freshness of the product or service and 5) 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 Look at a brand like Special K who for years was offering a low fat low calorie cereal with modest success.  Only when they came up the Big Idea of “empowering women to take control and maintain their healthy weight” were they able to align their brand to connect with consumers and drive success. Slide1 Special K created the powerful Brand Promise that with Special K, just twice a day for 2 weeks, you can lose 6 pounds or better yet, drop a jean size.  The brilliant strategy is around the usage occasion of the second meal each day.  Cereal had been a category that grew +3% for years, steady only with population growth and some demographics around boomers and echo generations.  But now, there was finally a reason to eat cereal twice in one day.  The communication of the Brand Story become about empowering women to take control using the Two Week Challenge.  With a Brand Idea bigger than just a cereal, Special K’s innovation rivalled that of Apple.  It started with the launch of Berry Special K that thrust the brand into a good tasting cereal, and has since added bars, shakes and water.  Most recently, they’ve now launched potato chips (only 80 calories for 20 chips) and a Breakfast Sandwich option.

What is your big idea?  And how will you align your promise, strategy, story, innovation and culture around that big idea?

The 3 Step Process

When I was at the Brand Manager stage of my career I remember being frustrated when I had to take my plan to the agencies.  We spent so much effort trying to get everyone on the same page, aligning the tactics behind the plan, doling out the money and then waiting to see the execution ideas coming back from the ad agency, the in-store agency, our professional agency, PR agency etc etc.  We’d see each idea and we’d try to piece them all together into a cohesive plan.  Then I came to the point where I had finally had it with playing traffic cop.   And came up with a simple “3 Step”:  

  • Step 1: Briefing
  • Step 2:  Ideas
  • Step 3: Tactical Plan.

Slide1

Once you get your Brand Plan approved, you now start in on the execution Here’s the trick of how this works best.

For Stage 1, you get every agency in the room and you give them a 2 hour briefing so that everyone hears the same message.  At this stage, I like to give agencies a high, medium and low-budget level, which gives me the control and flexibility to move dollars around to the best ideas.  Yes, it creates some competition but that just makes my plan better.

At stage 2, we do an entire day where the agencies present their best ideas with everyone in the room at the same time.  Everyone hears the best ideas and hears why I’m excited about those ideas.  They might also hear what I don’t like or what I think might be missing.  The agencies present big ideas hoping to get to the higher dollar figure.  And we start moving money right in the room.  The feedback is direct, tough and yet challenging.  I love ideas that are aligned to the strategy and big idea and reject those that aren’t. Between stage 2 and 3 is usually where the magic happens. The agencies actually decide to meet and start acting like one agency.  They get the feedback and start aligning their ideas together.  They come up with new tactics to re-earn any lost dollars.  

And by the time they come back to Stage 3, I’m now seeing a fully aligned and enhanced Tactical Plan  The process did the work for me.  All that frustration of me being traffic cop was replaced by the process. In year 2, this works even better.  And when you put it across all your brands like we did at Johnson and Johnson, it works even better.

Filtering the Best Ideas with THE BIG EASY

For Tactics to an annual plan, you can use a very simple grid of Big vs Small and Easy vs Difficult.  You can decide on criteria for Big and Easy, or you can use judgement.  Create the grid and put the ideas on post it notes you can then plot.  You’ll see the best of ideas rise to the BIG-EASY zone. The reason you want BIG is impact, to drive share and revenue growth.  The reason you want easy is to efficiently ensure it has a good return on effort, believing effort and investment have a direct link. Slide1

If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?

 

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To read more about creating Beloved Brands:

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  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

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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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