People always ask me, “so what is it that makes a Brand Leader good at advertising execution? I used to think they must be more creative. Or they are more in touch with creative people. Or better yet, they are a visionary. I never really thought these answers satisfied me. Advertising is so much more than that.
In fact there are many things around advertising that have nothing to do with the creative. There needs to be a great Brand Plan that inspires great strategy, the Creative Brief should be tight, yet rich with insight. Brand Leaders have to manage the process and stay on strategy and they should have an ability to select the right media. They should take risks. They have to be able to handle the stress of ambiguity against deadlines, and the pressure to make the numbers in the face of art. Advertising is half art, half science. They have to be able to give some freedom of execution, yet maintain a tight control on the strategy.
Brand Leaders must be good at giving good feedback, maybe even a bit fussy about details. Be nice though. They have to love the work and bring that emotion to the table. What about motivating the team? Not just motivating the creatives, but the planners, the account people, the editors and even the directors. Someone who is great at Advertising has to make decisions. They have to be able to walk in the shoes of the consumer, yet still, live at the desk of the brand. The best brand leaders must have the ability to gain alignment with their own team and yet gain approval from the senior management of the company. They have to be able to sell the work. At all stages. The list goes on and on.
There are just so many things that are required to get good advertising. Being creative is a great start. But it is more.
So after thinking about this question for a few years, I finally nailed it:
The best brand leaders must consistently get good advertising into the market, and keep bad advertising out of the market.
It’s such a simple yet complicated answer. Almost as simple and complicated as David Ogilvy’s line “Clients get the work they deserve”. I always ask Brand Leaders, “if you knew that how you showed up actually impacts the advertising, do you think you might show up differently?” I hope the answer is yes. But I’m not sure they do. Those great at advertising get it.
Sadly, there is an equally long list of things that make Brand Leaders bad at advertising. These days, there is so much learning on the job that people end up as the decision-maker in the room, sitting there trying to lead the advertising when they haven’t even properly trained on how to do it. Malcolm Gladwell says you’re an expert when you’ve had 10,000 hours. And yet, there are Brand Leaders are thrust into leading an Ad Campaign with 20, 30 or maybe 100 hours. And no training. Even those who are supposed to teach you haven’t been trained. So you are both learning. How can you consistently get good advertising on the air, managing such a complicated process when you’re still learning. On the job.
10 things your advertising must do for your brand
- Set yourself apart. Beloved Brands must be different, better, cheaper. Or they are not around for very long. The storytelling of the brand’s promise should help to separate the brand from the clutter of other brands that are stuck in our minds. And that starts with creative that feels different and of course makes the brand seem different.
- Focused! A focused target, a focused message, a focused strategy against a focused communication idea, a focused media. The whole discipline of marketing is founded on focus, and yet Brand Leaders struggle most in this area. They always want that “just in case” option.
- 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 does the consumer hear? A confusing mess. By throwing multiple messages you are just making the consumer do the work of deciding the most important message because you couldn’t figure it out. 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. Or just too long. The Volvo Brand Manager gets to yell “Safety” in one clean simple breath. Can you do that?
- Have a good selling idea. While Big Ideas breakthrough, they also help you to be consistent because you have to align your thinking with the Big Idea. You’ll see consistency over time, across mediums–paid, earned, social and search–and you’ll see it throughout the entire brand line up of sub-brands. Consumers will start to connect to the big idea and they’ll begin to relate your brand to that big idea. Look at your ad: does it have a big idea?
- Drive engagement: Too many Brand Leaders forget to engage the consumer. They 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.
- Let the visuals do the talking. With so many ads, you need to have a key 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.
- Sell the solution, not the product. Consumers use brands to solve problems in their lives. Your brand will be more powerful if it solves the problems of life. Figure out the consumers’ enemy and conquer it on their behalf. Consumers don’t care about what you do until you care about what they need. No one has ever wanted a quarter-inch drill, they just need a quarter-inch hole.
- Be relevant to the consumer. A beloved brand finds a way to matter to those who really care. It’s not only the right brand promise that matters, but the right communication of that promise. You can’t sell carpet cleaning to someone who only has hardwood floors. And you can’t sell a golf ball that goes 20 yards farther to someone who despises golf.
- Make ads that are based on a consumer insight. Insights are not facts about your brand. That’s just you talking AT the consumer. Insights are something the consumer already knows but they didn’t realize that everyone felt that way. They enable consumers to see themselves in the situation and once you do that, the consumers might then figure the brand must be for them. Insights allow you to connect and turn the ad into a conversation.
- Tell the story behind the brand. There should be richness in your brand’s purpose. Why did you start this brand? How does your brand help people? Why do you get up in the morning? Remember: people don’t buy what you do as much as they buy why you do it.
The ABC’S of Advertising
Another way to rephrase this list is through the ABC’S: Attention Branding Communication and Stickiness.
- Attention: You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising. Consumers see 6000 ads per day, and will likely only engage in a few. If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
- Branding: Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best. Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumer’s view of the brand. It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits the climax of the ad.
- Communication: Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
- Stickiness: Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time. In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own. Brands have to exist in the minds of the consumer.
Be a better client
If how you show up to the agency will produce better advertising work Then show up right.
Agencies should be treated like trusted partners, not suppliers. Engage them early asking for advice, not just telling them what to do and when. If you tell an agency what to do, there will only be one answer “YES”. But if you ask them what to do, there are three answers: yes, no or maybe. Seek their advice beyond advertising. Build a relationship directly with the creative teams. Be more than “just another client”.
Getting great advertising is a balance between freedom and control. Most Marketers allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative. It should be the reverse, you should control the strategy and give freedom to creative. Don’t go into a creative meeting with a pre-conceived notion as to what the ad should look like. Creative people are “in the box” problem solvers. What they don’t want a) blank canvas b) unclear problem and c) your solutions to the problem. Let them be in the box and find the solution for you. That’s what motivates them the most.
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