The best marketers take ownership of the brand, provide a clear vision and set of strategies, know what they want, then goes and gets what they want, can handle the pressure of Marketing and spend the effort to make their Assistant Brand Manager as good as can be. So why do marketers fail?
Ten reasons why marketers fail:
- You fail to make decisions. Stop bundling everything together, do too many things, and you never prioritize. Action over brains never works for long.
- Unable to translate data into analytical stories. You need to learn to turn data into issues, then strategies for approval, then action.
- Can’t get along with Sales, Agency or subject matter experts around you. They will talk openly about you, and destroy you.
- Struggle to deal with ambiguity. Seek clarity at the wrong moment for the sake of comfort. As a result, you opt for the safe/comfortable/easy option, rather than dig in to find the right answer. Marketers will miss answers by being stiff.
- You fall for tactics off strategy. When you are mesmerized by shiny tactical toys, it is like taking a holiday from the pursuit of your brand vision.
- Bad people Manager. Can’t delegate, selfish, nasty, untrusting, fearful of giving feedback. The best people won’t want to work for you.
- Poor communicators, with the boss, or partners. Dealing with you is frustrating. Being a poor communicator creates a lack of trust.
- Never follow your instincts. Don’t be the doubter, who constantly second-guess themselves. It ends up with constant spin/re-think. Slow at moving work through.
- You can’t write or present strategically. The reality is that smart thinking must be sold in for approval. Learn to write with a strategic mind. Learn to present your plans whether it is in the front of a room or 1-on-1 over a sheet of paper.
- You settle for OK, rather than push for great. Boring work will fail to break through. OK becomes contagious. If you don’t love your work, how do you ever expect your consumer to love your brand?
Five success factors for Brand Managers
A great Brand Manager takes ownership of the brand. Many marketers struggle with the transition from being the helper to now being the owner. As you move into the job, you have to get away the idea that someone will hand you a project list. Not only will you make the project list, but you should also come up with the strategies that set up the need for the projects.
The best Brand Managers speak with a telling voice, rather than an asking voice. It is great to be asking questions as feelers, but you must realize that most people on the team will be looking to you for the decisions. Your people want to be heard and have their expertise recognized. They recommend, and you decide. Even when managing upwards be careful you do not ask what you should do. A great boss will want you to tell them what you want to do, and let the debate begin from there.
2. Strategic direction
A great Brand Manager provides a clear vision and set of strategies. You should create a vision for the brand, to serve as a rallying cry for your team. Let everyone know where you want to go. The strategic choices and your brand’s execution should match up with your vision. As the brand owner, you become the steward of the strategy. You should reject everything that does not line up with your vision. Learn to think in terms of strategic pillars, to steer, control, inspire and manage the various functions and Agencies who support your brand. You have to be the one to drive a consistent delivery on your brand, despite having a wide-ranging collection of people behind the brand.
3. Working the system
A great Brand Manager knows what they want, then goes and gets what they want. Organizations are filled with functional groups, layers, external agencies, with everyone carrying a different set of goals and motivations. To an outsider, every organization appears to be a collective mess. The best Brand Managers can see much clearer. They can quickly understand and appreciate the motivations of various key stakeholders, and use that knowledge to work the system. Your greatness comes from the greatness of the subject matter experts who work on your brand. You must get them to give you their best. Tap into their motivations, to ask for their best work. One secret that took me many years to figure out; if you want someone’s best work, sometimes it is as simple as asking for their best work. The reason it works is very few Brand Managers ask.
4. Dealing with Pressure
A great Brand Manager can handle the pressure of Marketing, including ambiguity, the push for results, dealing with relationships and managing their time. If you can manage these four pressure points effectively, then you can even begin to use them against each other.
First of all, the unknown of ambiguity and the time pressure of deadlines can work against each other. However, the best Brand Managers figure out how to work them to our advantage, as they evoke the right balance of patience with ambiguity and persistence in getting things done. At every level, there is time pressure. Be organized, disciplined and work the system, so it does not get in your way.
If you are fully aware of the timelines, better than others on your team, you can use time pressure against your people to push for better work. I have found many subject matter experts, especially creative people, will choose the best path when pushed with time pressure.
For example, with creative advertising, I have pushed right up against a known timeline, and asked, “We do not see good enough ideas yet. What else do you have?” More often than not, the next answers are their best. If you wait too long, you might miss an opportunity. However, if you move too quickly, you can choose a suboptimal path. How long are you able to deal with an unknown variable on your brand, without losing your composure? Stay relaxed. The consequence of not remaining composed is it creates a scared and stressed-out team, who might make poor decisions that lead to poor results. It is a dangerous game. But, when played well, you can get the best from your team.
Another significant pressure for Marketers is when positive results do not come in. It can be frustrating but is a reality we face. Force yourself to course correct, re-examine the underlying issues, and regroup with your team to look at other options, rather than continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat.
There is pressure in relationships that many Marketers feel, but are not able to fix. I recommend you should be pro-active in making the first move to build a relationship. Try to figure out the motivations and frustration points in those you work with before they become a problem. You have to know where someone stands before you can figure out where you can move them. Common ground is usually not that far away.
5. Managing others
A great Brand Manager spends the effort to make their Assistant Brand Manager as good as can be. Most Brand Managers struggle with their first five direct reports. The key is to keep self-evaluating and looking for ways to improve with each direct report. It can be a struggle to shift from “do-er” to coach. It is always tempting to think you can do something faster, so you may as well do it. The problem is you just become the “super ABM.” Many Brand Managers fail to share the spotlight, so it becomes hard for you to showcase your Assistant Brand Manager.
But, you must believe the work of your Assistant Brand Manager will reflect positively on how good of a manager you are. Assistant Brand Managers need feedback—both the good and bad—to improve. I see too many Brand Managers not giving enough feedback. And, so many afraid of “going negative” so the ABM is left in the dark or left believing they are doing a good job.
Great Brand Managers take the time to teach up front, give the ABM some room to try it out and then provide hands-on feedback in real time. Use weekly meetings to give both positive feedback and address gaps. And, I believe Brand Managers should do quarterly performance reviews with their ABMs. At that level, an annual review is just not enough. They will learn faster with more feedback.
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