How marketers should deploy the right leadership style for the right brand situation

Situational leadership in marketing means identifying the right situation for when to be a strategic thinker, an instinctual thinker ora task master. The challenge is we each bring a natural style and have to learn the other two with experience. It is all about situational leadership.

situational leadership

 

Strategic Thinkers

Strategic leaders see ‘what-if’ type questions before they look for potential solutions. They are able to map out a range of decision trees that intersect, by imagining how events will play out in the future. They think of every option before taking action.

The trick to being strategic is to think slowly with strategy. If you move too quickly on brand strategy, you will be unable to see the insights beneath the surface, and you risk solving the wrong problem.

5 ways to slow your brain down to think strategically

The risk to just deploying the one leadership style is if strategic thinkers just think too long, they spiral around, unable to decide, and miss the opportunity window.

  1. Find your own thinking time. Walks at lunch or a drive somewhere to get away from it all. Block hour-long “thinking meetings” with yourself.
  2. Organize your week to fit your thinking pace. Talk “big ideas” on a Friday morning so you can take the weekend to think. Schedule quick updates on Monday afternoon that clears your mind for the week.
  3. Do the deep thinking before the decision time comes. Always be digging deep into the analytics to stay aware, prepare yourself, no matter your level.
  4. Next time in a meeting, ask the best questions. Too many leaders try to impress everyone with the best answers. Next time, try to stump the room with the best questions that slow down your team and force them to think.
  5. Proactively meet your partner teams. Get to know the needs of your sales teams or agency account leaders, and not wait for a problem or conflict. Come to them proactively with possible solutions so you both win.

Instinctual Thinkers

Instinctual leaders jump right in because their gut already sees the right answer solution. They move fast, using emotional, impulse and intuitive gut feel. They choose emotion over logic. This “gut feel” fosters high creativity.

The trick to be instinctual, you must think quickly on execution. Without intuitive freedom, you will move too slowly, overthink and second-guess yourself. You risk destroying the creativity of the right solution.

5 ways to speed up your brain to think instinctually

  1. Have fun, and be in the moment: Relax, smile, have fun, stay positive. If you get too tense, stiff, too serious, it can impact the team negatively.
  2. Focus on first impressions. Don’t let the strategy get in your way of seeing what you think of the creativity. This allows you to see it how your consumer might see it. You still have time to think strategically about it after your instincts.
  3. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. You have to represent your consumer to the brand. Try to react and think as they might. Learn to observe and draw insights.
  4. Do not make up concerns that are not there. While you need to be smart, don’t cast every possible doubt that can destroy creativity. Too many brand leaders destroy creativity one complaint at a time.
  5. Let it simmer for a while, before rejecting. You always have the option to reject an idea. Why not let it breathe a little, see it you can make it even better. If it gets better, you win. If not, you can still reject it, without any risk.

Task Masters

Task masters stay in control to get things done, keep things on time and on budget. They are always in full control, organized and on time. They never lose sight of the end goal, efficiently knock down roadblocks, to keep everyone else on track with time and budgets.

To be a successful task master,  it is to realize there is a business to run. Without staying focused on the end goal, strategic thinking and creative instincts are wasted, resulting in missed opportunities.

You can overly rely on the task master, the risk is you end up with hollow thinking, OK creativity and OK business results.

5 ways to be more of a task master

  1. Set high standards for you and the team: Hold the team to consistently high standards of work in analytics, strategic thinking, planning and execution in the market (advertising, innovation, purchase moment and brand experience)
  2. People leadership: Provide a team vision, consistently motivate others, be genuinely and actively interested in helping your team manage their careers.
  3. Lead the process: Organize, challenge and manage the processes so your team can focus on thinking, planning and executing. Guide the team to get things done on time. on budget and on forecast.
  4. Hit deadlines: Never look out of control or sloppy. Marketers have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other. In Marketing, there are no extensions, just missed opportunities.
  5. Know your business: Don’t get caught off-guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.

Finding that balance

As a leader, it is crucial for you to deploy the right leadership style in the moment, to be able to maneuver. Your brain should operate like a race car driver, slow in the corners and fast on the straight away. Change brain speeds, think slowly when faced with difficult strategy and think quickly with your best instincts on execution.

When you are in a team situation, try to recognize the natural styles of each of your team members. Make sure the team is well balanced, to ensure someone is the thinker, someone has the intuition to break through the clutter and then someone is the task master. Appreciate what each person brings to the table, leverage their natural strengths and ensure you be honest about your own style.

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth and profitability you will realize in the future.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

 

 

How to be a great Assistant Brand Manager…and of course, get Promoted

In my 20 years of CPG marketing, I must have interviewed 1,000 potential Assistant Brand Managers. I was lucky to have hired some of the best, who have gone on to have very strong marketing careers. I became notorious for asking for some of the toughest questions, some even bizarre. I always asked an analytical question to see if they could piece together lots of data and tell a story that made sense. I’d ask a creative question to see if they had a certain flare and pride in the output. I’d ask a problem solving question, some very hard, no real right answer, but I wanted to see how they actually think. And finally, I wanted to know that they had done something at a very high level–it didn’t matter what–but I wanted to know they could make it happen, whatever it was in. Getting that first ABM job is NOT EASY!  I had many failed interviews over the years that I began to wonder if it would ever happen. I remember one interview ended after about 8 minutes when she found out I didn’t have any experience. Thank god, I stuck with it.

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But even after gruelling interviews, only about 50% of Assistant Brand Managers get promoted to Brand Manager. So what separates the ok ABM from the great ABM that gets promoted?  There are two factors that I have seen in a consistent manner:  #1:  They get what they need and #2:  What they need is the right thing to do.  Very simply put, great ABMs get both.   The rest either fail on #1 or #2.    

Keep in mind there are some core marketing values you want to adopt over the years as an ABM that will serve you well in your career.

  • Hit deadlines: Never look out of control or sloppy. Marketers have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other. In Marketing, there are no extensions, just missed opportunities.
  • Know your business: Don’t get caught off-guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.
  • Open communication: No surprises. Keep everyone aware of what’s going on. Present upwards with an action plan of what to do with it.
  • Listen and decide: It is crucial that we seek to understand and equally important that we give direction or push towards the end path.
  • We must get better: When we don’t know something, speak in an “asking way”, but when we know, speak in a “telling way”.
  • We control our destiny: We run the brands, they do not run us. Be slightly ahead of the game, not chasing your work to completion. Proactively look for opportunity in the market, and work quickly to take advantage.
  • Regular feedback for growth: Always seek out and accept feedback, good or bad, as a lesson for you. Not a personal attack or setback.

The Five Factors that Separate Ok ABMs from the Great ABMs are:

  1. A great ABM is able to tell stories, where others just see data: There is tons of data all over—share results, tracking, test scores, etc. One of the most critical skill an ABM can work on is developing stories with the data. It’s one thing to have the data point, but another to have thought it through and know what it means, and what action you will take on this data. Look for patterns or data breaks, ask questions, start putting together stories and challenge the stories. Use stories backed up by data to sell your recommendations. Never give a data point without a story or action. You risk letting someone else take your data and run with it or tell a story different from yours.
  2. A great ABM takes action and moves before being asked: Most of the projects for ABMs are already set by your manager. When you are new, it’s comfortable to wait for your projects. But don’t get in the habit of waiting for someone to create your project list. But a great ABM starts to push ideas into the system and create their own project list. Some of the best ideas come with a fresh set of eyes and we need a continual influx of new ideas. We also start to see the ABM making good decisions, on their own, and communicating to their boss. Not asking permission but telling what they want to do and look for the head nod. Know what’s in your scope and align with your manager.
  3. A great ABM can get what they want: Instead of just functionally managing the steps of the project, great ABM’s “make it happen”: faster, bigger and better. Faster means you understand what are the important milestones that need to be hit. Manage the bottle necks: the task that have the longest completion time, that impact the entire project. Sometimes you need to push with an inflexible but motivating fist to get it done.
    Bigger means you want to do more than is required. You find that magic to make it even have a bigger impact. Creative solutions or motivating others to do more. Better means you have to take the same people and get them to give their best ideas or their best effort or their best work. Guaranteed you will meet many points of resistance. Every project will. Solving these and still getting the most you can, is what separates the great ABMs from the rest.
  4. A great ABM puts their strategic thoughts forward. You need to be a strategic thinker—asking the right questions to ensure you are focused on the right area, where you can gain a positional power that leads to higher growth and profit for your brand. Ensure you are staying strategic and not just falling in love with some execution not aligned to your brand’s strategy. It’s so easy to be lost in your own “cool” projects. At the ABM level, showing that you can keep things aligned to the strategic is just as important as being strategic. Speak up and represent your strategic thinking. Standing up for your thoughts shows that you are in the game, that you are thinking, and that you believe in your strategic thoughts. Silent ABMs never last.
  5. A great ABM is accountable in the ownership of their work: Accountability is the stepping stone to ownership. And the ownership of the brand is a sign you can be a Brand Manager. We need to see that before giving you your own brand.
    Great ABMs motivate but don’t delegate. If you have to step in, then jump in. You cannot let things slip or miss. You have to stay on top of the timelines and lead those on your project teams. You have to be action oriented, and solution focused. You can never allow your team to get stuck. Be the hub of communication to all team members, and to key stakeholders, including upwards to your manager.

If you can do those better than your peers, then you’ll get promoted. Conversely, if you’re missing any one of these, you might not get there. I hope your boss gives you a quarterly review because I believe ABMs can grow so fast that you need those regular check-ins. If you just get an annual review, you won’t go as fast. Ask for feedback, cherish it, and use the next 90 days to build on a strength or eliminate a gap.

One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve. The basic rule is: You get dumber before you get smarter.   

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When you first land the ABM job, there’s just so much to learn, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day. It’s over-whelming at first, and yet you see all these other ABMs doing it so that’s even more intimidating. But the idiot curve is inevitable. It just shows up differently for each person. No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve. (But, please fight through the curve, you have to for your survival) The idiot curve normally lasts up to 3 months, and then things just start to click. And you’ll experience it in a new and exciting way you can’t even predict.  

ABM roles are hard, but all the work you do now will pay off the rest of your career.  

Here’s a presentation on how to have a successful Marketing Career.

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

GR bio Jun 2016.001

10 reasons why people fail early on in their Marketing careers

 

Every year, companies hire thousands of the best and brightest to become Assistant Brand Managers (ABMs). Brand Careers 2016.041It’s not easy to get a Marketing job, but you have to keep knocking on the door and believe it will happen for you. Because there are so many people who want in Marketing but only so few jobs, it’s really a buyer’s market at the junior levels. The process for screening can be intense with  5+ interviews, including senior people, sometimes a test or a presentation to a group. Yet, about 50% of these amazing newly minted Marketers won’t even make it to Brand Manager within the 2-3 years. Marketing has a tough up or out process, because there tons more wanting to get in. Most companies have a process to weed out those who won’t make it. In my time in the CPG world, here is what I saw as the reasons why some failed and others succeeded. 

Here are the top 10 reasons why people fail in Marketing:

  1. They can’t do the analytical story tell. They fail to turn monthly share reports into stories that can travel up the organization. Their deep dive analysis is either too complicated that no one can follow the story or too shallow that they only do the “surface cleaning” type analysis that never really finds the real insight, just what we already know.
  2. They struggle to deal with the ambiguity of marketing. The ambiguity boxes them in where they can’t think differently about a problem or it causes them personal stress. They come up with solutions to get out of ambiguity rather than reveling in the ambiguity to find the best solution. I once asked a candidate “how do you deal with ambiguity”. Her answer was “I try to organize it because no one likes ambiguity”. She asked me how I deal with ambiguity and I said “I revel in it. I love it. I struggle with it. I let the ambiguity eat away at me until I find that great answer, not just settling for an answer because it gets me out of the ambiguity faster.” If you can’t deal with ambiguity, you should not choose a Marketing career. Brand Careers 2016.049
  3. They are slow at moving projects through. They struggle to make it happen! Maybe they are indecisive, unproductive, disorganized or can’t work through others. Big Picture: they are frustratingly slow for others in the system. They become the bottle-neck. They keep missing the small milestones causing the team to miss the deadlines. In some cases, it’s not whether you are slow or fast, but whether you are slower than your peers?
  4. They selfishly think about themselves. This becomes the leadership de-railer. They manage their career around their ego, they overstep the boundaries of gossip, going above heads politically. They play the game, but they make it look too obvious. They think they are highly political, but others see them as not very politically astute. They are not a team player with peers or cross functional players. The system has a way of isolating these people. This raises a red flag for future leadership roles. If it is noticed at the junior level, it will become more evident at more senior roles. 
  5. They don’t work well through others. Conflicts, teamwork issues, communication. The odd thing about Marketing is you must work through a group of subject matter experts (SME’s) who know what they are doing, and you’re relying on these same people to teach you how to be a good Marketer. Your supply manager will teach you about forecasting, packaging approvals and even design tricks. Your finance manager can teach you about accounting and the key indicators management looks for. Your promo manager or trade marketers will teach you about customers, sales people etc. If you don’t use these people to enhance your skill, you’ll eventually crash and burn. The collection of SME’s will likely teach you more about marketing than your boss will. If they can’t work with you, they’ll also be the first to destroy your career. Be careful if you think it’s smart to “rat on these people” because they likely taught your boss how to be a great Marketer. 
  6. They miss answers by not being flexible. They fail to find the balance between what the head thinks, what your heart feels or even what the gut tells you. When a junior Marketer is questioned, a senior manager can 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. The style of a good senior manager’s questions is not always information gathering but rather designed to poke holes in the story to see that the deep rich thinking and even the appropriate struggling has gone on. The questions are designed to give the senior leader confidence, and if you fail to answer, then they now have doubt.
  7. They fall for tactical programs that are off strategy. This becomes a tell-tale sign that they won’t make it to more senior levels, where you will own the strategy. If you deviate from the strategy to choose the coolest tactic that has nothing to do with the goals or strategy, then you will be seen as tactical and not strategic. Always remember that Marketing is a balance of strategy and execution–you must think with strategy and execute with instincts.
  8. They hold back from making contributions to the team strategy. It is ok to be a quiet Marketer, but not at the decision-making table. You must must have a voice or you will be labelled as a do-er. Those who fail don’t proactively provide a point of view on strategy. They don’t show the ownership needed to become a brand manager and people start to wonder if it’s in there or not.
  9. They settle for “good” rather than pushing for “great”. While a lot of entry level Marketing jobs are highly executional, if there becomes a noticeable pattern where the Marketer just takes the “ok” ideas, it begins to look as though they don’t care enough. If they aren’t passionate enough to push back, it raises questions as to whether they will they be able to do so later in their career.
  10. They are poor communicators, with manager, senior management or partners. They fail to adequately warn when there’s potential problems. They leave their manager in the dark. Here a tip on managing your boss in an organization: If you think you know the answer, then speak in a telling voice and let your boss challenge you. If you don’t know the answer, then speak in an asking voice and let your boss help you.

On day 1, everyone has all ten of these de-railers, some that you can easily over-come but others will take time and effort to really fix. What really separates “great” from the “ok” is what you’re willing to do with these. 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 out. Be honest with yourself and try to fix one of these per quarter. My hope is that you are able to maximize your full potential in Marketing.

 

Avoid these 10 de-railers and I wish you the best of luck to you in Marketing career

Here’s a presentation on How to have a Successful Marketing Careers: 

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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Ten Things I wish I knew when I was a Brand Manager

I’m a pure marketing guy, with 20 years in brand management in consumer packaged goods companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, General Mills and Coke.  I loved marketing, yet many times my ambitious got the best of me and I tried to get ahead too fast.  I was a make it happen type guy sometimes pushing too hard to go too fast and leaving a debris of casualties along the way.  I wanted people to know I was smart, so I suffered the “smartest the room” syndrome where I talked more than I listened.  Here the the 10 things I wish I knew when I was in the hot seat of the Brand Manager role.  

  1. I wish I knew that leadership was more about follower-ship.  Too many Brand Managers, myself included think that leadership must be a visible person charging out in front of everyone.  The problem for many is when you turn around, no one is following you.  The power of leadership is when you are able to motivate, inspire and challenge everyone to be as great as they can be.  Realize that everyone on your team wants to do a good job, the leader taps in the personal pride to enable them to reach the full potential of their greatness.
  2. I wish I understood that brand was more than just about messaging to the consumer.  I didn’t realize then that brand did as much work internally as it did externally.  Now, i see the connection internally how the brand idea guides the culture which helps add to the brand experience.  Brand should also guide the R&D team to create new products that fit with the brand idea, rather than just random innovations that we have to figure out how to market.  A beloved brand is based on an idea worth loving and then all the connections of promise, strategy, story, innovation and culture should deliver behind that brand idea.
  3. I wish I listened to my experts more.  At times,  I always thought I had to be the smartest person in the room.  Many Brand Managers face the same issue as they confuse ownership of a brand with dictatorship.  As I moved up and gained experienced, I would actually tell myself im the least knowledgeable person in the room and spent more time listening than talking.  I tell marketers that the subject matter experts you are trying to lead will teach you more than any of your managers.  Listen and learn.
  4. I wish I relied on my own team more.   Many Brand Managers are actually bad managers.  Those poor ABM’s who get some rookie manager that is still thinking more about impressing others than helping the ABM get better.  We all come across that moment when we know it would only take us 15 minutes, but an hour to explain.  While it gets done, no one got better.  Challenge yourself to make your direct reports better.  You have to realize that better people means better work and that means better results.  And I’m a big believer in getting people trained so they have the fundamentals to enable them to perform at their highest potential.
  5. I wish I started with my brand’s consumer and not the product I worked on. When you are assigned to work on a brand, it’s so easy to fall in love with that brand.   And you think more about your product, than you think about you consumer.   I now like to start the other way around, thinking about consumer needs and insights and trying to match them up to what I do best.  Walking in the shoes of the consumer and answering the question of “so what do I get” forces you to shift from features to real benefits.  I also wish I believed more in the balance of building an emotional connection rather than just the rational messaging and strategy choices.  Finding the emotional benefits answers the question “so how does that make me feel?”
  6. I wish I was more grounded in the fundamentals rather than just instincts.  When I came in as an Assistant Brand Manager, I was told that “most of the learning is on the job”.   My first manager was unable to teach me anything so I learned on my own, rather than “on the job”.  I only spent 20 months at the ABM level and with that little training, now I was given an ABM to manage.  Just imagine how little I knew in helping them to get better. The  idea of learning “on the job” is a myth that we need to stop.  There has to be a balance of learning the fundamentals so that Brand Managers are taught how to write brand positioning statements, creative briefs and brand plans, as well as how to judge advertising and media plans.  At Beloved Brands, we run brand training sessions in everything a Brand Manager needs to know:  
  7. I wish I focused more.  As a Brand Manager we all try to do too much.  I wish I tried to do a few things really well, rather than trying to do too many things. Focus is one of the most important things you can learn–you have to take your limited resources (money, people and time) and place all of them against those programs that drive the highest return.  I’m a believer in 3 strategies per brand with 3 tactics per strategy, keeping you focused on the top 9 things you have to do to be successful.
  8. I wish I was able to handle conflict better.  A marketer meets conflict on a daily basis whether it’s with sales, ad agencies or subject matter experts.  One of my best bosses always said “likely, you are both half right” and you need to start from there to figure out where to go next.  I love that idea because not only does it force you to look for compromise, but it forces you to hear out the other person.  Too many times, conflict starts with a failure to listen.  
  9. I wish I wasn’t such an ivory tower marketer.  Time is an easy thing to blame for staying in the office.  But, I should have gotten out more, get in the stores, to the plant, to see customers and to talk directly with consumers. Look at the world through your consumers eyes, walk in their shoes and speak in their voice.  Marketers get caught up in writing the next presentation and working in their office that they turn into the classic ivory tower marketer. And in today’s modern media world, they should be getting on twitter and Facebook to see what people are talking about on-line.  
  10. I wish i wasn’t in such a hurry to move up.  Before I got into marketing, I wanted to be a Brand Manager.  Technically i was only a brand manager for 36 months.  I loved it.  Every part of that job.  And yet i still wanted to move up.  I got my wish, but i think another 2 years at that level would have been ideal.  Be patient with your career, and as long as you are learning, that matters most.  

I hope that you find something in common with this list and that you can challenge yourself to get better rather than just get ahead.  If you have any words of wisdom or tips, please comment below.  

Invest in Your People:  Better Brand Leaders leads to better work and that leads to better Results 

 

Here’s a presentation on Successful Marketing Careers:  

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

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

Ask Beloved Brands how we can help train your team to be better brand leaders.

How to fail as an Assistant Brand Manager

Every year, CPG companies hire thousands of the best and brightest to become Assistant Brand Managers.  Usually, there are big recruiting events that generate hundreds of resumes or companies use recruiters to send the best resumes they have. The process for screening can be intense with  5+ interviews, including senior people, sometimes a test or a presentation to a group. Yet, about 50% of ABMs won’t even make it to Brand Manager within the 2-3 years and out they go. It’s a tough up or out process.

Here are the top 10 reasons why ABMs fail:

  1. They can’t do the analytical story tell. They fail to turn monthly share reports into stories that can travel up the organization. Their deep dive analysis is either too complicated that no one can follow the story or too shallow that they only do the “surface cleaning” type analysis that never really finds the real insight, just what we already know.
  2. They struggle to deal with the ambiguity of marketing. The ambiguity boxes them in where they can’t think differently about a problem or it causes them personal stress. They come up with solutions to get out of ambiguity rather than reveling in the ambiguity to find the best solution. I once asked a candidate “how do you deal with ambiguity”. Her answer was “I try to organize it because no one likes ambiguity”. She asked me how I deal with ambiguity and I said “I revel in it. I love it. I struggle with it. Let the ambiguity eat away at me until I find that great answer, not just settling for an answer because it gets me out of the ambiguity faster.”
  3. They are slow at moving projects through. They struggle to make it happen: could be that they are indecisive, not productive, disorganized or can’t work through others. They are frustratingly slow for others. They keep missing the small milestones causing the team to miss the deadlines. In some cases, it’s not whether you are slow or fast, but really are you slower than your peers?
  4. They selfishly think about themselves. This becomes the leadership de-railer. It’s about ego, gossip, over-stepping their role, going above heads politically. Highly political, but not really politically astute. Not a team player with peers or cross functional players. The system has a way of isolating these people. This raises a red flag for future leadership roles.
  5. They don’t work well through others. Conflicts, teamwork issues, communication. The odd thing about an ABM is you must work through a group of subject matter experts (SME’s) who know what they are doing, and you’re relying on these same people to teach you how to be a good ABM. Your supply manager will teach you about forecasting, packaging approvals and even design tricks. Your finance manager can teach you about accounting and the key indicators management looks for. Your promo manager or trade marketers will teach you about customers, sales people etc. If you don’t use these people to enhance your skill, you’ll eventually crash and burn. The collection of SME’s will likely teach you more about marketing than your boss will. And if they can’t work with you, they’ll also be the first to destroy your career.
  6. They miss answers by not being flexible. They fail to find the balance between what the head thinks, what your heart feels or even what the gut tells you. When an ABM is questioned, a senior manager can 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. The style of a good senior manager’s questions is not always information gathering but rather designed to poke holes in the story to see that the deep rich thinking and even the appropriate struggling has gone on.
  7. They fall for tactical programs that are off strategy. This becomes a tell-tale sign that they won’t make it to Brand Manager, where you will own the strategy. They deviate from the strategy to choose the coolest tactic that has nothing to do with the goals or strategy. You become the great executor, but not the thinker needed. Marketing is a balance of strategy and execution.
  8. They hold back from making contributions to the team strategy. Just a do-er. They don’t proactively provide a point of view on strategy. They don’t show the ownership needed to become a brand manager and people start to wonder if it’s in there or not.
  9. They settle for “good” rather than pushing for “great”. While a lot of ABM jobs are executional, if there becomes a pattern where they just take the “ok” ideas, it begins to look as they don’t care enough. If they aren’t passionate enough to push back, will they be able to do so later in their career.
  10. They are poor communicators, with manager, senior management or partners. They fail to adequately warn when there’s potential problems. They leave their manager in the dark. They confuse partners because they don’t keep them aware of what’s going on.

The big question is what do you do about it. On day 1, everyone has all ten of these de-railers, some that you can easily over-come but others will take the full two to three years to really fix. What really separates “great” from the “ok” is what you’re willing to do with these. 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.   And grow into the role of Brand Manager before you get promoted.   

Best of luck to you.  I do hope you get promoted to Brand Manager. 

Here’s a presentation on How to have a Successful Marketing Careers:  

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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How to be a great Assistant Brand Manager…and of course, get promoted

In my 20 years of my CPG Marketing career, I must have interviewed 1,000 potential Assistant Brand Managers. I was lucky to have hired some of the best, who have gone on to have very strong marketing careers and I became notorious for asking for some of the toughest questions, some even bizarre. I always asked an analytical question to see if they could piece together lots of data and tell a story that made sense. I’d ask a creative question to see if they had a certain flare and pride in the output. I’d ask a problem solving question, some very hard, no real right answer, but I wanted to see how they actually think. And finally, I wanted to know that they had done something at a very high level–it didn’t matter what–but I wanted to know they could make it happen. How to be a great Assistant Brand Manager

Getting that first Assistant Brand Manager job is NOT EASY!  I had many failed interviews over the years that I began to wonder if it would ever happen. I remember one interview ended after about 8 minutes when she found out I didn’t have any experience. Thank god, I stuck with it.

The marketing career is very challenging. At the entry-level role, only about 50% of Assistant Brand Managers will get promoted to Brand Manager. 

There are two main factors that separate the OK from the great Assistant Brand Manager:

  1. They get what they need 
  2. What they need is the right thing to do

Very simply put, great Assistant Brand Managers get both. The rest either fail on #1 or #2.  

You have to nail the obvious

Keep in mind there are some core marketing values you want to adopt over the years as an Assistant Brand Manager that will serve you well in your career.

  • Hit the Deadlines: Don’t Look Out of Control. We have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other. Missing deadlines make you look sloppy.
  • Know Your Business: Don’t Get Caught Off-Guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.
  • Open Communication: No Surprises. Make sure you keep your team informed and involved. Don’t hide information, present it upwards with an action plan of what to do with it.
  • Control Our Destiny: We run the brands, they do not run us. When we don’t know something, speak in an “asking way”, but when we know, speak in a “telling way”.  While it’s crucial that we seek to understand, it’s equally important that we know our role as leaders is to give direction or push towards the end path.
  • Let’s Celebrate Our Wins: Love what you do. These are tough jobs. It has to be the passion for what we do that keeps us going. The passion that separates great from “ok”.
  • Everything Can use Process: It should enable us, not hinder us. A good process can force your thinking towards a solution. If it restricts your thinking, it’s not a good process.  
  • Continuous Ideas: We Implement 1 in 100 ideas we have. There is a need for more ideas so the ideas we carry out are the best we have. Never be afraid of an idea, but always be willing to say “what a crap idea”.
  • Regular Feedback for Growth: That’s the only way we get better. You should always take feedback, good or bad, as a lesson for you. Not a personal attack or setback. Seek it, embrace it and build on it for your future.

Five factors that separate an “ok” Assistant Brand Manager from the great ones:

  1. A great Assistant Brand Manager is able to tell stories, where others just see data: There are tons of data all over—share results, tracking, test scores, etc. One of the most critical skills an Assistant Brand Manager can work on is developing stories with the data. It’s one thing to have the data point, but another to have thought it through and know what it means, and what action you will take on this data. When you come across data, the best thing you can do is look for patterns or data breaks, try to twist the data in different ways to see if you keep getting the same story, ask questions to find back up, start putting together stories and challenge the stories. Never give a data point without a story or action. You risk letting someone else take your data and run with it. Never fear bad data, as long as you have an action plan. Never twist the data to tell a story, because if it’s challenged, the story crumbles with it. This skill is one that you carry with you as you move upwards in marketing.In fact, the more practice you have, the faster you’ll become.
  2. A great Assistant Brand Manager takes action and moves before being asked: Most of the projects are already set for an Assistant Brand Manager, so many times, it’s comfortable to wait, ask the right questions and proceed. That’s good for learning, but a bit too cautious. Some of the best ideas come with a fresh set of eyes. We need a continual influx of new ideas and even new ways of seeing things. You need to push your ideas into the system. While it’s still key to communicate to the right stakeholders, you should be pushing your ideas into the system, which almost creates new projects. Don’t get into the mode of waiting or figuring that’s not within your job scope.
  3. A great Assistant Brand Manager can get what they want: It’s obvious that project management is a big part of being an Assistant Brand Manager. But, instead of just functionally managing the steps of the project, you need to make it happen, faster, bigger and better. In terms of speed, you need to understand what are the important milestones that need to be hit.  Always think about key bottlenecks.  Bottlenecks are simply the task that has the longest completion time, which impacts the entire project. If you let this slip, the entire project slips. This has to be managed in detail, but also many times with an inflexible fist to getting it done. Bigger means you want to do more than is required.  Make the work zing, find the wow factor, and make it have a bigger impact than expected.  Better means you have to take the same people and get them to give their best ideas or their best effort or their best work. Guaranteed you will meet many points of resistance. Every project will. Solving these and still getting the most you can, is the separation of good from great.
  4. A great Assistant Brand Manager puts their strategic thoughts forward. All great ideas must flow upwards. Most people tend to think they are “strategic”…and they tell me that all the time. After all these years, I’m still not even sure what that means. But I do know there is a big difference between thinking strategically, and contributing strategically. You need to be in the frame to challenge thinking, whether it comes from your agency, cross-functional peers or me. It’s important that you speak up and represent your thinking. Standing up for your thoughts shows that you are in the game, that you are thinking, and that you believe in your strategic thoughts. If you don’t stand up for your thoughts, then it doesn’t really matter, does it? Also, it’s so easy to get lost in the daily executions, but you have to be constantly thinking. Keeping things aligned to the strategic is just as important as being strategic.
  5. A great Assistant Brand Manager is accountable for the ownership of their work: Accountability is the stepping stone to ownership. And ownership is what being a Brand Manager is all about. You cannot let things slip or miss. Many times, the devil is in the details. You have to stay on top of the timelines and lead those on your project teams. If you have to step in and work with an expert then jump in. You have to be action-oriented, and solution focused. You can never allow your team to get stuck. They will be looking to you for the ingenuity to help solve the problem. Maintain the composure, ask questions and learn to revel in the ambiguity. You have to be the hub of communication for all team members, and to key stakeholders, including upwards.

If you can do those better than your peers, then you’ll get promoted. Conversely, if you’re missing any one of these, you might not get there. I hope your boss gives you a quarterly review because I believe Assistant Brand Managers can grow so fast that you need those regular check-ins. If you just get an annual review, you won’t go as fast. Ask for feedback, cherish it, and use the next 90 days to build on a strength or eliminate a gap.

One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve. The basic rule is: You get dumber before you get smarter.   Marketing Career Idiot Curve

When you first land the Assistant Brand Manager job, there’s just so much to learn, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day. It’s overwhelming at first, and yet you see all these other Assistant Brand Managers doing it so that’s even more intimidating. But the idiot curve is inevitable. It just shows up differently for each person. No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve. (But, please fight through the curve, you have to for your survival) The idiot curve normally lasts up to 3 months, and then things just start to click. And you’ll experience it in a new and exciting way you can’t even predict

ABM roles are hard, but all the work you do now will pay off the rest of your career.

Here’s a presentation on our Brand Management Training Programs.

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order: https://lnkd.in/gDA5Aiw

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

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Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.