How to be successful at the marketing director level

Most people are promoted up to Brand Manager because they are really smart and get things done. From my experience, they get stuck at the Brand Manager level mainly because they are bad at managing people, or can’t get along with the sales force. Promoting them up to Marketing Director just becomes too risky to the organization–they can’t afford to lose key talent, and they can’t afford to lose touch with the sales team.

Many Marketing Directors fail if they can’t stop acting like a Brand Manager. They are too hands-on and makes all the decisions. They smother the team and never lets them have their day in the sun. One rule is at every level you have to adjust to the new role. Brand Managers fail when they keep acting like ABMs and Directors fail when they keep acting like Brand Managers.

Marketing Director

The 5 success factors for marketing directors

The Marketing Director role becomes less marketing and more leading. Your role is to set the consistent standard for your team 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. Sometimes you’ll need to teach, guide and challenge. Sometimes, you’ll have to put your foot down to stay fundamentally sound and other times you’ll have to follow creative ideas you might not be so sure will win. Let your best people shine, grow and push you. It’s their time.

1. Set a consistently high standard for your team

Hold your team to a consistently high standard of work: Rather than being the leader by example, I’d rather see you establish a high standard and hold everyone and yourself to that standard. Shift your style to a more process orientation so you can organize the team to stay focused, hit deadlines, keep things moving and produce consistent output. Consistent quality of brand plans, execution and interactions with everyone. It’s about how to balance the freedom you give with the standard you demand. Delegate so you motivate your stars, but never abdicate ownership of how your overall team shows up.

2. Behave predictably and consistently

A great marketing director becomes the consistent voice of reason to any potential influencers, acting on behalf of the brand team. The director becomes the usual point person that the VP, sales team, agency, each turn to offering their thoughts on the brands. Yet the director has to allow their BM to own the brand. As the team’s voice of reason, a great marketing director must continue to ground all potential influencers in the brand plan with the strategy choices, consistently communicate the brand’s direction and back up any tactical choices being made by the team.  

3. Be a consistent people leader

Newly appointed directors have to stop acting like a “Senior-senior brand manager” and let your team breathe and grow. We know you can write a brand plan, roll out a promotion super fast and make decisions on creative. But can you inspire your team to do the same? It becomes the director’s role to manage and cultivate the talent. Most brand managers have high ambitions–constantly wanting praise, but equally seeking out advice for how to get better. Be passionate about people’s careers–anything less they’ll see it as merely a duty you are fulfilling. A great marketing director should be meeting quarterly with each team member one on one to take them through a quarterly performance review. Waiting for year-end is just not enough. 

Take your brand knowledge to new heights with our Beloved Brands playbook

Beloved Brands is a comprehensive guide that covers the fundamentals of brand management. It goes deep on strategic thinking, brand positioning, brand plan development, advertising decisions, media planning, marketing analytics, and the brand financials. This is an opportunity to build your marketing skills to help your career. And, it will provide you with the roadmap for driving growth on your brand. 

Beloved Brands book for marketers

Marketers see Beloved Brands playbook as a go-to resource, as they keep it within arm’s reach for any new project. We are thrilled to see that it has received a 5-star rating from nearly 90% of Amazon reviewers. Additionally, we have also created playbooks for B2B Brands and Healthcare Brands, catering to specific industries.

4. Show up as the consistent voice to the sales team

Marketing directors become the go to marketing person for the sales team to approach. Great sales people challenge marketers to make sure their account wins. I’ve seen many sales teams destroy the marketing director because the director refused to listen and stubbornly put forward their plan without sales input. Be the director that consistently reaches out and listens. They’ll be in shock, and stand behind your business. If sales people feel they’ve been heard, they are more apt to follow the directors vision and direction. A great marketing director should informally meet with all key senior sales leaders on a quarterly basis, to get to know them and listen to their problems. This informal forum allows problems to bubble up of problems and be heard, before they become a problem.

5. Consistently deliver great work and strong results

As it is a business, a great marketing director is expected to make the numbers. They have a knack for finding growth where others can’t. And yet when they don’t, they are the first to own the miss and put forward a recovery plan before being asked.You must have an entrepreneurial spirit of ownership, create goals that “scare you a little but excite you a lot”. They reach out for help across the organization, making those goals public and keep the results perfectly transparent. And everyone will follow you.

Consistency matters

Hopefully, you noticed the word “consistent” show up in all 5 factors for success. Stay Consistent. That is a trait I would encourage every director to take: show up with consistency in standards for your team, strategy, people management, dealings with sales and owning the numbers. With a bigger group of people who you influence, with a broader array of  interactions across the organization and with a bigger business line on the P&L, anything less than consistent will rattle your core team and rattle the system built around you. No one likes an inconsistent or unpredictable leader. They will mock your mood swings in the cafeteria. You will become famous but for the wrong reasons. The sales team will not be able to rely on your word–and to them, that’s everything. 

Senior leaders will struggle with you–and will not want to put you on the big important business because it just feels risky. Your agency will be uncertain as to what mood you will be in, when you show up to meetings. With your maturity and experience, now is the time to start to craft a consistent version of what you want to be.

Marketing Careers

On a classic marketing team, there are four key levels:

  • Assistant Brand Manager.
  • Brand Manager.
  • Marketing Director or Group Marketing Director.
  • VP Marketing or CMO.

To illustrate, click to zoom in on the brand management career pathway. 

In simple terms, the Assistant Brand Manager role is about doing, analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.

At the Brand Manager level, 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.

When you get to the Marketing Director role, it becomes more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing. To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best.

And finally, at the CMO level, you must create your own vision, focus on your people to make them better and shine, drive the business results, and run the processes.

Our Beloved Brands Marketing Training program will make your team smarter.

If you are running a marketing team, you will always benefit from having a smarter team. When you invest in our marketing training program, you will help your team gain the marketing skills they need to succeed. As a result, you will see them make smarter decisions and produce exceptional work that drives business growth.

We’ll work with your team to help them learn more about the five core marketing skills: Strategic Thinking, Brand Positioning, Marketing Planning, Marketing Execution, and Brand Analytics. Most importantly, your marketers will learn new tools, concepts, and ideas to trigger new thinking. To help their skills, we get participants to take each tool on a test run. Then, we give feedback for them to keep improving. 

To illustrate, click to zoom in on the brand management career pathway. 

Strategic Thinking:

Our marketing training teaches brand leaders how to ask tough strategic questions to slow everyone down and engage in debate of options to move forward. To start, you will be given various tools to approach strategy in a thoughtful, analytical way. Importantly, marketers need learn how to change brain speeds to move from a strategic thinker style to uncover what is holding back a brand, and onto an instinctual thinker style on marketing execution. 

We introduce our Strategic ThinkBox that allows marketers to interrogate their brand. Importantly, our ThinkBox pushes you to take a holistic look at the brand’s core strength, competitive landscape, tightness of the consumer bond, and business situation.

Brand Positioning:

Our brand positioning process teaches how to decide on the target market, consumer benefits, and reasons to believe. To start, you will learn to define the ideal consumer and frame the definition with their biggest needs, consumer insights and their enemy. Then, we provide our benefit cheatsheets to help learn how to discover the functional benefits and emotional benefits that a brand can deliver. Importantly, marketers need to make a decision on trying to stake out a unique space that is motivating to consumers, and ownable for the brand. 

Learn to use our brand idea tool and see how it helps to communicate the brand idea to everyone across the organization. Finally, marketers will learn how to take the brand positioning work and translate it into a brand concept, brand story, and a brand credo.

Marketing Plans:

We see the marketing plan is a decision-making tool on how a brand will spend their limited resources. Moreover, the marketing plan communicates the expectations to everyone who works on the brand. Importantly, we teach marketers how to put together the vision, purpose, goals, key issues, strategies and marketing execution plans

Learn how to write key issue questions and strategic statements that forms the foundation of the marketing plan. In addition, our marketing training provides various marketing planning templates including our one-page brand plan and ideal Marketing Plan presentation deck

Marketing Execution:

Our marketing execution training starts with the concept of our Marketing PlayBox that matches up to the Strategic ThinkBox. To keep marketers on strategy throughout the execution stages, our Marketing PlayBox helps find in-the-box ideas that meet four dimensions: they are focused on our target, fit with the brand, deliver the message, and execute the strategy. 

To start, we show how the creative brief sets up the PlayBox, serving as the bridge between the plan and execution. We go through the creative brief line-by line  and give you examples of the best and worst. Importantly, you will learn to use our Creative Checklist to help make smarter decisions on creative communications. We workshop how to give feedback to your agency based on gaps you see with the checklist. 

Learn to make media decisions that match up to your consumer’s purchase journey. In addition, we provide a similar Innovation Checklist to compare innovation ideas. 

Brand Analytics:

Our comprehensive brand analytics training teach brand leaders how to lead a deep-dive business review. We outline the best analytical thinking so you can become a well-rounded marketer. 

Learn to look at the marketplace, consumer analytics, channels of distribution, competitors or other brands in their industry. And, learn assess the brand itself. Importantly, you will learn how marketing funnels can help assess the brand’s performance. We provide 64 analytical questions that marketers can ask of their brand. Finally, we show how to understand the financial performance indicators of the brand.

Our training looks at three specific streams; Consumer Marketing Training, B2B Marketing Training, and Healthcare Marketing Training. With each program, all the of the examples are tailored to the type of marketer. Undoubtedly, we believe marketers will be at their best when the can see the concepts or tools working on their type of brand.

Take a look at our Marketing Skills assessment tool to see how you or your marketing team measure up.

For more information on our Beloved Brands Marketing Training programs, click below or email Graham Robertson at [email protected]

What type of marketer are you?

We believe that marketers learn best when they see our marketing concepts applied to brands that look like their own. We have come up with specific examples – consumer, B2B and healthcare – to showcase our marketing tools. Click on the icon below to choose your interest area.

Strategic Thinking

Smart strategic thinkers ask challenging questions.

To start, take the opportunity to improve your strategic thinking skills. Look to the five steps to building an effective brand strategy

We show how to use our Strategic ThinkBox, and lay out the five elements of strategic thinking. Next, go deeper on to challenge your brand’s core strength, engage with consumer strategy, or competitive strategy

Undoubtedly, you must understand the business situation before making your next move. We show how to write the ideal strategy statements you can use in your marketing plan

Video Lesson: Key Issues

To illustrate, watch our video on how to find the key issues on your brand that you can use in your marketing plan. Importantly, it helps you find the best possible questions. Subsequently, it sets up strategic solutions to answer those questions.

Play Video about Strategic Key Issues Video

To view, use the ▶️ controls to play our brand strategy video. 

Staying on strategy through execution.

As you move to the marketing execution, you need to use in-the-box creativity to stay on strategy. We map out the advertising process, and the innovation process. Take a look at  our Creative Brief and the good and bad creative brief examples. Then, we set you up to make marketing execution decisions using our advertising checklist to evaluate creative advertising ideas. And, you can use our innovation checklist to compare new product ideas.

Importantly, marketers need to understand media planningpricing strategy, and social media strategy

Our brand templates make it easier for you to do your job.

Moreover, we provide brand templates that help you run your brand. For instance, you can find templates for marketing plans, brand positioning, creative briefs, and business reviews. Altogether, we offer brand toolkits with all the presentation slides you need. 

If you are looking to make your marketing team smarter, we can help. To get started, email Graham Robertson at [email protected]

Advertising Decisions

The Creative Brief defines the box.

At Beloved Brands, we believe the best creative people are in-the-box problem solvers, not out-of-the box inventors. This builds on our Strategic ThinkBox we used in our planning process. The box below demonstrates how we need creative work that is focused on the target, fits with the brand, delivers the message, and executes the strategy. 

As marketers, we kick off the advertising process using a Creative Brief to define the box the creative advertising must play in. The execution align with the brand positioning work and deliver the brand strategy statements you wrote in your marketing planMoreover, we show examples of the good and bad of the Creative Brief. And, we introduce our Mini Brief for smaller projects and the Media Brief as part of media decisions. We have a Creative Brief template you can use. 

As marketers, we kick off the advertising process using a Creative Brief to define the box the creative advertising must play in. The execution align with the brand positioning work and deliver the brand strategy statements you wrote in your marketing planMoreover, we show examples of the good and bad of the Creative Brief. And, we introduce our Mini Brief for smaller projects and the Media Brief as part of media decisions. We have a Creative Brief template you can use. 

Use our Creative Checklist to determine if the creative work is in the box.

Then, we introduce a Creative Checklist that is designed to help you make advertising decisions. When you see the creative marketing execution come back from your experts, use our creative checklist to make decisions. Next, use your feedback to your marketing experts to steer the ideas back in-the-box. Importantly, the Creative Checklist highlights the gaps you see. Your role is to provide your problems with the work, while avoiding providing a solution. Let your creative marketing execution experts use their in-the-box creativity to figure out new solutions that will fit the box. 

To illustrate, click to review how our Creative Checklist helps decide if the creative advertising fits the box..

Use our ABC's of Advertising: Attention, brand link, communication stickiness

Here are four questions to ask:

  • First, is it the creative idea that earns the consumer’s attention for the ad?
  • Then, is the creative idea helping to drive maximum brand link?
  • Next, is the creative idea setting up the communication of the main consumer benefit?
  • And, is the creative idea memorable enough to stick in the consumer’s mind and move them to purchase?

To illustrate, click on the ABC’s of advertising to see details.

Get comfortable with various advertising techniques.

Learn how to be better at advertising. Explore other advertising ideas such as emotional advertisinghumorous ads, feel-good ads, and ads that bring consumer insights to lifeMoreover, read how to conduct your own marketing research, social media plans, or using influencers.  

Video on how to use in-the-box creativity

Have a look at our video on how to use in-the-box creativity to ensure our marketing execution stays on strategy. We introduce how our Creative Brief defines the box the work must play in. And, our Creative Checklist to allow you to decide if the marketing execution delivers. To read more, click on this link: How to use in-the-box creativity. 

To view, use the ▶️ controls to play our brand strategy video. 

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Phone: 416–885–3911

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As a marketing team leader, you know that your team’s success is essential for your company’s growth. Our Beloved Brands marketing training provides your team with the skills they need to make strategic decisions, produce exceptional work, and drive business growth. They will learn how to define brand positioning, write effective plans, improve brief-writing, make informed execution decisions, and analyze their brand’s performance.

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